This past month the sign-up period for a Small Cities Development Grant Program was extended until the end of October in hopes that the Granite Falls EDA, working in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce, could round up an additional 28 home, rental and commercial property renovation applications.
The extension proved worth the effort as the final push allowed the city to exceed the overall number of applications required to be considered for the federally funded, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) administered, program.
When all was said and done, EDA Director Dennis Van Hoof said that the city received applications for 36 owner-occupied homes, 40 rental and 21 commercial property rehabs.
“Thanks goes out to the Upper Minnesota Valley Regional Development Commission (RDC) for extending the city’s application deadline, and to [Director] Nicole Zempel and Sarina Otaibi at the Chamber of Commerce, who were integral in aiding the city reach the goal,” he said.
Van Hoof said that the city is still a long ways from being accepted into the program, with the city still having to get through two rounds of the application process before it hears the final word.
At present, the RDC is preparing the city’s preliminary application to be submitted to the state by November 15. Word on the preliminary application is expected in January. If approved, the city will be considered amongst a final round of applicants.
“It is a highly competitive grant,” said Van Hoof. “A lot of communities across the state are competing for these funds. Some of these will be funded and we hope that we will be one.”
The program will come at some expense to the city. The preliminary application will cost the EDA $4,000, whether or not it is approved, and then another $2,000 if the community makes it the final round of applicants.
If funded, locals chosen to take part in the program would be responsible for 25 percent of the cost of improvements, while 75 percent of project costs (up to $18,750) would be covered in a deferred/forgivable loan in which 1/7 is forgiven each year over a seven year period. Expenses in excess of this figure would be the responsibility of property owners.
In a collaborative effort Granite Falls and Clarkfield were awarded a small cities grant in 2009 which was completed in November 2011. As a result nine single family and eight renter occupied units renovated in Granite Falls and twelve owner occupied units and one commercial unit were renovated in Clarkfield. With the previous application partnering between communities was strongly encouraged by the State while with this application it is discouraged.
Van Hoof said that the city’s application should benefit from what has become a strong community display of program interest, and that Granite Falls has a “reasonable shot” of being awarded the grant.
Page 2 of 2 - Of the grant applicants, only a portion will be chosen to receive the grant. Those who filled out preliminary applications will be considered first. Said Van Hoof, “We would anticipate that we would be able to complete seven commercial projects, 10 single family owner occupied and 10 rental properties.”