Friday February 1, 2013

DOVER -- Business owners are taking advantage of a program that aims to improve store fronts and the overall look of exteriors of businesses in town.

"From the very beginning of the economic development program, one of the important parts of economic development always was to conjure up programs to benefit the existing business community and get ideas to bring new jobs to the area," said Economic Development Assistant Linda Anelli. "Certainly everyone could use some help in these tough economic times."

Dover Economic Development Specialist Ken Black said he already has received eight applications for the marketing initiative, which is part of a program called Do-It Marketing. The initiative focuses on helping local businesses make aesthetic improvements in a revitalization campaign.

The Selectboard has approved this program for this fiscal year, but it's only been proposed for the next fiscal year. It hasn't been approved yet.

The total amount of money that can be allocated and given as grants is $25,000. Businesses can apply and have applied for funds between $500 and $2,500

"I think we'll use up the funding. Hopefully, it will achieve its objective," Black said. "I think it will."

All the work must be completed by Oct. 31, 2013. No applications will be accepted after June 30.

It has been on a first-come, first-served basis and is strictly a rebate program.


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So far, about 80 percent of the funding has been allocated, said Black.

Projects for the program can include making new signs, getting buildings painted or getting window replacements. It is a program that has been established with the Selectboard to improve business' exteriors.

Business owners received cost estimated by contractors and other workers for their projects, then sent their estimates to the Economic Development Specialists. The applicants will pay for the projects out of pocket, then after the project is accepted and completed, the money requested will be sent to the business owner.

It is given after the project is looked at by the specialists and also billed by the contractor. This is to avoid projects being paid for that don't have to do with aesthetic improvements and don't meet the program's guidelines.

"I've heard it through the grapevine and I expect, quite frankly, that there will be several other applications coming my way," said Black. "So that's a good thing."

Applications started coming in as soon as the new year began. At the meeting that announced the program to potential applicants on Dec. 11, business owners were skeptical and afraid that all the money would be allocated by midnight, leaving others out of the program.

Four applications came in right at midnight and two more came in during the day on Jan. 1.

Black has already sent the spreadsheet that outlines all the project estimates the applicants have sent to him to the Selectboard, which will help show that the endeavor seems worthwhile.

"As I get new applications and money allocated, I'll be informing them (the Selectboard)," said Black. "Right now, it's more of a holding pattern and I'll be keeping a waiting list for once we've exceeded the budget. So maybe someone will have a change of heart and the next guy on the list will be able to get their money."

Business owners were hopeful that this project would gain steam and get attention from the board. It had been mentioned also that next year, the board may choose to increase funding if the program is successful.

"Obviously, they always have the opportunity to increase funding if there's a demand," said Black. "Like anything else, there's a limited amount of budget. It's been very positive. I'm excited."

Black is still waiting to see what happens. The Do-It Marketing initiative won't be deemed successful until the projects are done and the funds all given out to the applicants.

"We'll see on the flip side if this stuff gets done," said Black. "I expect that you'll start to see projects completed mid to late spring."

More applications are being reviewed by Anelli and Black.

"It's raising the bar for everyone," Anelli said. "That is economic development, this whole exercise."

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.