City pursues business grant

Newton business owners could receive grant funds for doing the one thing everyone hopes for these days — creating jobs in the community.

Newton officials recently announced the city is eligible to apply for a Main Street Solutions grant, which can provide business and commercial property owners in the city up to $200,000 for job creation.

"For Newton and the whole state, job creation is probably the No. 1 priority," said Rob Powell, Newton commercial development coordinator.

Newton, as a designated Main Street Community, is eligible for the grant on behalf of its business and property owners.

Qualifying grant projects include:

1) Acquisition and/or rehabilitation of properties that encourages business expansion and creates jobs.

2) Establishment of revolving loan programs for private investment (this includes experienced loan managers only).

3) Market studies, design studies or strategic planning necessary for private investment and job creation.

4) Construction or rehabilitation that leads to private investment and/or job creation.

5) Public improvement or infrastructure projects necessary to stimulate private investment and create jobs.

Eligible projects must either fall within Main Street boundary, which is downtown Newton, or be part of a historic preservation process, Powell said.

The city will hold two information sessions for business and property owners, as well as investors, Jan. 4 at 8:30 a.m. and Jan. 6 at 6 p.m. in Newton City Council chambers.

The meetings are designed to answer questions from residents and gauge the city's interest level. The city isn't required to submit any applications, Powell said.

North Carolina has $1.5 million available for Main Street Solutions grant recipients. The state anticipates about eight projects statewide will receive the funding. About 99 communities are eligible to apply for the grant.

"The state has less money (for the grant) this year, and they're opening it up to more communities, so that waters the process down a little bit," Powell said.

That means applications submitted from Newton must be thorough and innovative to receive the coveted funding. Applications for the grant will vary depending on the suggested project, but will likely include business plans, pro-forma development statements, operating plans, preliminary architectural plans and financial statements.

Participating businesses that receive the grant must provide minimum matching funds of $2 for every $1 they receive in grant funding. Powell said Newton doesn't have money budgeted to pay for the businesses' matching costs.

"(Recipients) have to be able to show where the rest of that funding is going to come from," Powell said.

Each participating community can submit one application. If the city receives more than one qualifying project application, the projects will be combined into one citywide application. Awarded grant funding will then be divided among recipients.

Job creation claims in the applications must be specific and implemented before grant money is received. Grant funds will be awarded as a reimbursement of eligible expenditures from an accepted application.

This is the second year Newton is participating in the Main Street Solutions grant application process. Last year, the city submitted three applications. None were selected to receive funding.

Powell, however, encouraged people to attend the interest session and bring ideas for the business improvement or expansion.

"The more activity that we can exhibit as a Main Street Community, the more attention we will get from the people in Raleigh," he said.

Applications are due to the city Jan. 25. The city's completed application is due to Raleigh by Feb. 10.

For more information about the Main Street Solutions grant, contact Powell at (828) 695-4360.