The township launched the SPARK small business revitalization grant program in November and awarded $114,000 in the first round of funding this week to 18 businesses to help them spruce up their properties.
The township started the program that provides reimbursable grants of $1,000 to $10,000 as part of the effort to revitalize the U.S. 42 corridor but widened the scope to include businesses township-wide. The township received 30 applications and five of the 18 award winners have businesses on U.S. 42.
Economic Development Manager Katy Kanelopoulos told the Journal-News, “the interest is high for sure” and people have already called asking if there will be a second round of funding.
“So many great projects were submitted, but those selected rose to the top in terms of the larger impact they might have in an area of the township that could benefit from aesthetic improvement,” she said. “The goal is to give a jumpstart that will inspire other property owners to make improvements.”
The township fully funded nine projects, and four of them received the top award of $10,000. The rest got 75% of their requested amounts. Eligible projects include exterior improvements such as paint, lighting, signage, hardscapes or even demolition. Premier Shooting and Training on Ohio 747 had a rather unique request for an exterior mural and received $7,500 for the project.
Trustee Ann Becker has been touring the businesses that received the funds to congratulate them and she said the program truly did create the “spark” they intended.
“It’s been amazing to hear the excitement from the small business owners, and the fact that the small amount of grant money that the township gave was literally a spark for them to take a look at bigger projects they can take on,” Becker said. “More than one of the business owners said because we’re doing this with the grant money we’re going to do this too.”
A small business as defined in the program is 30 full-time employees or less and the business owners must front the money. Grantees have six months from the date they accept the grant to complete the project, then the township will inspect the work to make sure it was done as specified in the application. The business owner must produce receipts and then they will be reimbursed.
The applications were scored based upon the aesthetic benefit of the project to the larger neighborhood, the potential economic impact of the project and if the project is in a targeted area needing improvement.
The trustees budgeted $100,000 for the program, but Kanelopoulos said only estimates were used to apply — the actual cost could be lower. The program was part of the $250,000 the township has earmarked the past few years to revitalize U.S. 42.
Previous plans to address the U.S. 42 corridor have failed and township officials have said they know they need to take “baby steps” and engaging the business owners that call that area home is imperative for a potentially successful endeavor.
Kanelopoulos said those business owners have been very receptive and “we hope to see more Route 42 applicants if there’s another round.”
“It’s going very well, they’re very positive, they’re appreciative, they hope that it sparks further improvements,” she said. “You know if one business gets upgrades, maybe the one next door might say hey that looks pretty nice I think I want to improve my property to match. We hope to see a ripple effect.”
Becker told the Journal-News they will likely see how the program works out — after all the first round projects are completed and reimbursements are approved — and then they will consider funding another program next year, “we’ll wait until those final steps are done and reevaluate the program to see what kind of impact it had for ‘24.”
Trustee Mark Welch was a little reticent about the grant program — he wanted it township-wide not just U.S. 42 centered so they tweaked it — when it was first floated, he told the Journal-News he is willing to provide additional funding.
“I’m certainly willing to continue it, I think it was a successful program,” Welch said. “It shows that the township is interested in our tagline, which is where families grow and businesses prosper. This is a just a little nudge.”
Trustee Lee Wong wouldn’t say definitively if he’d support another round of funding but told the Journal-News “this round went very well, a good response and we are very happy that we are able to help, we are always here to help the businesses be successful.”
Receiving 100% of funding are:
- Animal Hospital of West Chester – State Route 42 - $6,642.00 for improved and updated signage
- Saxon Financial – State Route 42 - $10,000.00 for updated signage
- Salon BelAire – State Route 42 - $4,250.00 for repairs to front parking area
- Timberview Office Park – State Route 42 - $10,000.00 to replace rotted decking at front of building
- Kaycie Land Investment/Scott’s Awards/Carpetile – State Route 42 - $9,365.00 for updated signage and parking lot updates
- LuLu Sweets Boutique – Cox Lane - $1,608.00 to create an outdoor dining area
- The Pickle Lodge – Kingsgate Way - $10,000.00 for enhancement of entrance at an old building with a new use
- Raton Salon – Cincinnati-Dayton Road - $1,525.00 for improved entry signage
- Bunnell Electric – Cincinnati-Dayton Road - $10,000.00 for new front door, windows and new signage.
Receiving 75% of requested funding:
- Premier Shooting and Training – State Route 747 - $7,500.00 for an exterior mural
- Arrow Brothers/Further Financial – Muhlhauser Road - $3,712.00 for decorative exterior lighting
- BTC Investments – State Route 747 - $3,300.00 for removal of dead shrubs and replanting
- Entertrainment Junction – Squire Court off Tylersville - $7,500.00 for painting the exterior of the building which fronts I-75
- Golden Day Boutique – Cincinnati-Dayton Road - $7,500.00 to add large display window at front of building to create retail atmosphere in corridor
- Kingsgate Insurance – Cincinnati-Dayton Road - $5,433.00 for updated signage
- Welling & Company – Cincinnati-Dayton Road - $5,138.00 for an awning at the street front in Olde West Chester
- Xquisite Cutz – Kingsgate Way - $3,828.00 for replacing deteriorated signage and improvements to business exterior
- Fath Regal Properties – Regal Lane - $6,780.00 for exterior painting and new doors
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