The Superior City Council approved the final 2021 small business grants on June 1.
With no additional money allocated to help small businesses finance projects or startup costs, plan commissioners got to work revising the program to help extend its reach.
Revisions approved by the plan commission Wednesday, Sept. 15, include reducing the amount of the maximum grant, awarding a portion of the available funding quarterly and eliminating some eligible uses to encourage participants to take advantage of other government funding opportunities.
“Planning did add a mission statement and pulled out the energy efficiency improvements as an eligible use,” Mayor Jim Paine said.
Plan commissioner Ann Porter suggested both changes in August.
The state of Wisconsin has a rebate program, Focus on Energy, that businesses can use for energy efficiency projects, Porter said.
Under the revised program, small business owners and revenue-generating arts and entertainment nonprofits can get grants up to $15,000 to help cover the cost of façade treatments, building improvements, signage, equipment, furnishings and other uses considered on a case-by-case basis. Grants are awarded on a sliding scale between 25% to 50% of project costs up to the maximum grant.
“I think it captured everything we talked about,” councilor Brent Fennessey said. “It will make our money last further.”
Since its inception in 2019, the small business grant program has awarded $385,812 in grants for nearly $1.5 million in projects to renovate existing businesses and help launch new ones. The program also provided microgrants to help small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown in 2020.
“As part of my budget proposal, I included $50,000 more for this program for this year,” Paine said. “That will allow the commission to start awarding grants again relatively soon.”
The Superior City Council will consider the budget proposal Tuesday, Sept. 17. Changes to the small business grant program will go to the council for consideration at its Oct. 5 meeting.
Paine said the city will advertise when additional grant funding is available and the new policy is in place.