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Business beautification discussed by council

Posted on February 4, 2016 by Vauxhall Advance

Nikki Jamieson
Vauxhall Advance

Good aesthetics are vital for small businesses.

Unfortunately, they can be costly to maintain, but there could be a loan for it available later this year in Vauxhall.

During their regular council meeting on Feb. 1, Vauxhall town council discussed options as to whether or not they should enter into a contract with Chinook Community Futures’ Beautification Loan and Grant program.

The beautification program works by providing local businesses with funding to improve the aesthetic of their business of up to $10,000 – with a grant of up to 20 per cent of total funding and an 80 per cent, three-year interest free loan – for each applicant. The funds can be used for projects such as improving signage, exterior or interior lighting, paint, making the building more accessible or window/door upgrades.

Each jurisdiction would be required to contribute funds for the grant and, what would otherwise be, the interest on the loans. The cost for the town to do one grant would be about $3,000. They would not have control over who gets a loan – CFF will be in charge of that, selecting the successful applicants based on factors such as credit scores – but the program is available to every business operating in the community.

Since they currently have some big and expensive projects on the go, they wondered if they should put it off until later in the year, wait until next year or ask for more information.

“It’s a great program. Personally, when I was looking at it, cause I didn’t know you could choose the amounts, so I thought we had to pay the $15,000 (for five). So I was personally looking at it for maybe something in the future, you know when the pool is all done,” said Margaret Plumtree, Vauxhall mayor. “But I have talked to Community Futures, and they are fine with you can choose to do one, you can do two, you can do like Taber, they’re doing ten.”

Council made plans to revisit the topic during the next council meeting, once they received more information on the program and who can apply.

Originally, during their regular council meeting on Jan. 18, council voted to join the program, as one of the communities under the Municipal District of Taber’s jurisdiction. The plan was that this would give the town a chance to gauge interest in the program, and if it proved popular, then they can join on their own at a later date.

“The beauty of the program is there’s a lot of collaboration, a lot of the work being done is local as well, the dollars are staying within the community,” said Sean Prummel, CCF business analyst, on Jan. 18.

“The M.D. is a little bit trickier with smaller towns… I’d rather include you guys in the five, and if I can get those five out the door quick, then it looks better, maybe the M.D will chip in more as well. I would say it’s your best interest just to wait to see what I get for the five loans.”

The program had been pitched in an earlier Joint Economic Development Committee meeting, Plumtree told council during the delegation, and Vauxhall had originally been included under the M.D.’s contract for the program, but had bowed out to give council a chance to discuss the program.

“They took us out because… we didn’t know if Vauxhall was going to want to do their own, or if we wanted to be included at the M.D,” said Plumtree, during the Jan. 18 council meeting. “The M.D. took us out for the time being, until we made our decision. So basically, if we want to be included back at the M.D, we just have to request that of the M.D, and we can see how the program goes. If it is successful, and we want to team up with the M.D. again, cause there’s opportunities in both areas, we can do the teaming up with them again, and do a joint venture where we contribute some of the money, they contribute some of the money and we do more projects.”

Businesses in Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Brooks and County have already received over 120 loans from the program between them. Currently, the Town of Taber will receive ten loans through the program, and the M.D. will receive five for the businesses operating in its jurisdictional area.

“Just make sure that what’s been approved so far – the money that’s been approved so far – that projects get started. And then we can, with the M.D, if all the projects say get done in Vauxhall, or four of them or whatever, we can always look at contributing back to the M.D, should that be the case,” said Plumtree.

Vauxhall council had approved a motion to ask the M.D. to include them back under their CCF agreement. The M.D. council received the letter with the motion during their Jan. 26 regular meeting, although they did have some questions regarding their plan, believing that it would be simpler if Vauxhall funded their own program.

“What would be the benefit then? What would really be the benefit if they gave us cash to fund their portion? It’s just extra paperwork on our part.” said Bob Wallace, M.D. councillor. “If we’re partnering with them, it’s going to be their own money going into the town (applicants), so they might as well write their own contract.”

The M.D. replied to Vauxhall that they were confident they could fill their current five applicant spots, and that Vauxhall would be better off getting their own contract for the beautification loan program.

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