Superior commission maintains small business grants for 2023

Commissioners considered setting a surplus of funding aside for historic preservation, but ultimately decided the leftover funds should go toward small business owners' projects.

Government Center in Superior.
Government Center Boardroom, Superior.
Jed Carlson / File / Superior Telegram

SUPERIOR — The city's Plan Commission was left with a $20,362 surplus in its small business grant program last year, giving commissioners an opportunity Wednesday, March 15, to reconsider how funding is awarded.

Funded at $200,000 annually since its inception in 2019, the program has awarded 45 grants for a total of $572,478 to support almost $3 million in projects, said Stephanie Becken, planning assistant.

“This year we have a little bit of a surplus, so we have an opportunity to look at and make any changes to how the allocation process works,” Becken said.

The grants have been awarded on a quarterly basis over the last year; prior to that they were awarded on a first-come, first-served basis until the money ran out. After the money ran out about half-way through the year in 2021, the commission altered the program to quarterly awards.

Three quarters in calendar year 2022 had fewer grants than the $50,000 available in each, but the second quarter grants awarded in June had more eligible projects than available funding. The discrepancy prompted the commission to reduce some grant awards and roll over unspent funds from the previous quarter to cover most of the requests. In 2022's second quarter, the commission awarded $73,548 in small business grants as a discretionary matter.


Becken said the city could have funded all the requests in full last year with a little bit left over if the grant requests hadn’t all come in during the second quarter.

Commissioners were divided on how to spend the surplus. Four members were in support of a proposal by Commissioner Brent Fennessey to allocate the surplus funds for additional assistance for historic renovations. Five members favored rolling over the surplus so additional funding would be available to all small business owners when grant requests exceed the available funding in any quarter.

A motion to reallocate the funds for historic renovation projects failed.

The footprint of the Grand Foot Path in Douglas County

“I don’t want to cut our small business owners short,” said Commissioner Garner Moffat.

As a supporter of historic preservation, Moffat said he believes preservation should be treated separately from the small business grant program.

“Any money left over should stay in the fund before we put it anywhere else,” Commissioner Dennis Dalbec said. “That’s what we designed this program for.”

The 2023 grant program was adopted without any changes.

The commission did adopt a new application for the small business grant program that added a question about whether the project is in a historical building or neighborhood.


Becken said the goal of the question is to identify potentially historic properties to encourage conversations with the city’s historic preservation committee, a panel of experts in historic preservation. The answer to that question would have no bearing on eligibility for the grant program, she said.

Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or
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