South Peace News
A new grant program in Big Lakes County to help businesses enhance their premises or online presence may be scrapped.
At its meeting June 22, council approved a motion to review the business refurbishment grant program after council awarded the first grants May 11.
Several council members expressed concerns about the program after a follow-up report was presented by Dave Reynolds, director of corporate services.
“Each of the recipients is working to revise the scope of the project listed in the application to complete $2,000 work of upgrades,” Reynolds told council.
High Prairie East – Banana Belt Councillor Tyler Airth said the grant has spurred a lot of opposition from ratepayers.
“I’ve heard lots of talk about this,” Airth said.
“Why am I subsidizing my taxes to help another business increase revenue?” they say, Airth stated.
He suggested council is not a good organization to provide such a grant to businesses.
“I think it needs to be done by another group,” Airth said.
North Gilwood – Triangle Councillor Jim Zabolotniuk agreed as did Sunset House – North Gilwood Councillor Ann Stewart.
“It’s a waste of money,” she said.
“I’ve heard a lot from ratepayers.”
Joussard Councillor Richard Mifflin suggested Community Futures would be a good organization that businesses could access funding to enhance their businesses.
“We need to review it and maybe work with Community Futures,” Mifflin said.
Community Futures has a loans program for businesses to upgrade their premises, he noted.
Some councillors said some businesses thought they would get more funding in the grant.
However, Kinuso Councillor Roberta Hunt said she clarified the program to business operators who considered applying for the grant.
“I told people they would probably share the $10,000 funding,” Hunt said.
“They’re still doing something for it.”
Grants of $2,000 each for Faust General Store, Korner Kitchen in Faust, EC Bar Ranch near High Prairie, Obsession Beads in Faust and Shady Orchard and Winery near High Prairie were approved by council at its regular meeting May 11.
Since then, council asked administration to follow up the recipients.
The business refurbishment grant program was adopted in 2021 as the county budgeted $10,000 in the program in 2022 budget to offer businesses to improve their physical and/or online appearance.
Improvements are intended to address some of the issues from the 2019 visitor-friendly assessment, said Brett Hawken, director of community and protective services.
Council received 17 applications as 14 met the eligible criteria, he added.
“In order for the businesses to receive the funding, they must complete the project they applied for and submit invoices and ‘after’ photos to show the local improvements they did either physically or online,” Hawken said.
The five successful applicants were recommended by the Big Lakes County Economic Development Authority.