South Peace News
Business owners in Big Lakes County will soon have two funding options to enhance their business premises.
Besides updating its business refurbishment program, the county will also partner with Community Futures – Lesser Slave Region in its interest-free loan program.
At its regular meeting Aug. 24, council first approved a motion to amend the refurbishment program to award four annual grants of $2,500 each.
“This allows businesses to plan with the knowledge of how much they could receive,” says Brett Hawken, director of community and protective services.
“It also allows for more than one business to complete a project each year.”
Council awarded its first grants of $2,000 each to five county businesses at its regular meeting May 11.
Further, council approved a motion to allocate $10,000 in the 2023 budget for the Community Futures loan program.
Community Futures presented the loan program to council at its regular meeting July 6, Hawken says.
As a partner, the county would be able to pay the interest on the loans, he says.
This is the first year of the program and currently the Town of Slave Lake and the M.D. of Opportunity have agreed to enter the program.
“The economic development committee views the benefit of this program is that $10,000 contributed by the municipality can stretch into roughly $100,000 worth of renovations and improvements throughout the county,” Hawken says.
“The loan program allows businesses an opportunity to receive interest-free loan funding to upgrade their business should they not be a successful applicant for the county’s business refurbishment program.”
Hawken says the set amount of interest determined at the beginning of the loan approval process will not increase for the county, even if a client defaults.
“That is a risk that Community Futures absorbs,” Hawken says.
Council also directed administration to draft a memorandum of understanding with Community Future for the loan program and present it to council at an upcoming meeting.
At its regular meeting June 22, council directed administration to present a draft a revised policy for the refurbishment program and return it to council.
During the June meeting, several council members expressed concern about the policy.
Some said many residents were also concerned or opposed the program.
The updated policy requires recipients to complete the project by Dec. 31 of the year the grant was awarded.
As well, the deadline for applications was changed to March 15, instead of April 15 to allow recipients more time to complete the project.