By Cole Parkinson
Community Futures is hoping to offer the Business Beautification Loan Program to businesses in the Municipal District of Taber. The program provides an opportunity to improve the appearance of their business by offering grant dollars and interest-free loans to a maximum of $10,000, with up to $2,000 in grant dollars and up to $8,000 is provided as an interest-free loan.
At the M.D. of Taber council’s regular meeting on Nov. 22, Community Futures asked for some funding from the M.D. to run the program. It was explained to council the total cost to the M.D. for five businesses was $14,928 in 2018 when the two organizations partnered together for the program, and assuming each applicant for the program requests the maximum amount, the cost to the municipality would be approximately $3,000 per business.
“It’s a project that we already have in place in the Town of Taber and also in the Brooks region. It’s a program the business they have up to $10,000 to apply for any kind of renovation they want to do inside of their business — literally to beautify their business and to make it more appealing,” explained Alvaro Mendes, business analyst with Community Futures. “The plan is to have 20 per cent of this up to $10,000 granted by M.D. of Taber and the other 80 per cent, which is Community Futures. It is a free of interest loan, repayable in three years and this interest is payable for the M.D. of Taber.”
Community Futures lists the eligible projects for businesses as: 1) Signage on the front of business locations (in accordance with the Sign Bylaw)
2) Restoration of exterior finishes and repainting the building
3) Repair or replacement of storefront windows and doors
4) Removal or restore exterior lighting of building and signage
5) Installation and design of awnings and signs for commercial buildings
6) New storefront window openings and new doorways
7) Interior window display areas and lighting
8) Removal of exterior materials that cover architectural details
9) New architectural details such as entryway features and cornices
10) Signs that are uniquely designed to integrate into building architecture
11) Creation of new retail bays in an existing building
12) Addition of patio areas and permanent landscaping elements
13) Removal of barriers to access for people with disabilities and mobility challenges
14) Interior painting and flooring (carpet, laminate, tile, hardwood)
15) Highways’ signage (in accordance with the Sign Bylaw and approval presented)
16) Shelving (removable)
17) Interior counters and display cases
18) Interior light fixtures
It was also explained to council that the program has seen success since its inception.
“We put $55,000 for the program and five businesses applied. Over these five businesses, we had almost $500,000 leveraged from their business,” added Mendes.
Council also asked how long the program would run. It was explained it was originally a one year program with an option to extend it if council was open to supplying more funding.
“It was initially set up as a one year project and then with the intent of coming back to council for future funds if there was a demand for it. The way the economy was at the time, they weren’t really seeing the uptake from the Community Futures side of things or the interest from the M.D., but to be fair, they already got the five out and just weren’t advertising the program because the funds weren’t available. Now it’s at the point where someone from the M.D. has approached Community Futures about the program and they’ve used up the funds they have,” explained Ben Young, planning and economic development officer.
“I believe it was around $15,000 because each one is approximately $3,000 when the M.D. pays for the $2,000 grant portion plus the interest portion,” added Young.
With the Town of Taber participating in the program, many on M.D. council were in favour of providing funds.
With the expansion of their hamlets and more people moving in, it was highlighted more opportunity available for businesses in those communities, the better it will be for everyone within.
“The economic results are good for the M.D. as a whole, plus this program has been well promoted in the Town of Taber, so I could see how it could spark interest in the M.D. — especially if businesses in our hamlets are made aware they can take part in it. Our hamlets are moving forward and progressing so I think I would be interested in us finding a way to include this in our budget. I think the economic return is very valuable,” stated Deputy Mayor Tamara Miyanaga.
“If I was to prioritize it, it would be for businesses in the small hamlets to beautify their businesses and help their businesses out,” added Reeve Merrill Harris.
It was asked if they could put in a condition around businesses applying would have to be located within a hamlet.
“That could be one of the parameters council would request to add to Community Futures because their business analyst (Mendes) does do a full review of each application,” responded Young. “He could weigh location a little higher if it’s in a hamlet so if there were say three loans available and if he had five, and three of them were in hamlets, he could weigh those a little higher. Other parts of the application would weigh in on their success or not, but council could request that as sort of an added parameter.”
“I really like the idea, but as long as it’s heavily weighted to more public, hamlet-type businesses,” added Coun. John DeGroot.
Others though weren’t in favour of putting hamlet businesses in front of other businesses across the municipality.
“I would caution against weighting it to specific geographies. I think it’s something that should be available to all residents and ratepayers, not just for specific areas,” said Coun. Brian Hildebrand. “I think there are some parameters within Community Futures already on how they disperse the funds, but for us to put further restrictions, it might be a little bit onerous in a number of ways.”
“I’d be more in favour of a reoccurring one if we find something that is affordable and continues it on annually. That would be better for me,” added Coun. John Turcato.
Miyanaga requested for the topic to be brought back to council as a Request for Decision at the next meeting of council in December.
A motion to have administration prepare more information and bring it back as a Request for Decision at the Dec. 14 meeting was carried unanimously.