NEW MARKET — Town Council members awarded two businesses $5,000 each Monday to help them improve their buildings as part of a facade enhancement program.
Last year, the town offered up $5,000 as part of a matching grant program to spur businesses to invest in their buildings downtown. After seeing a handful of applications and generating lots of local interest, town officials decided to increase the funding in 2019 to $10,000.
Despite an initial wave of interest, only two businesses applied for this year’s grant funding.
Town Manager Todd Walters asked council members on Monday how they wanted to divide up the funds previously allocated in the town’s budget.
Council members settled on a figure and means of dividing the money between Jon Henry’s General Store and The Home Store.
Councilman Larry Bompiani suggested the town give each business $3,500 and the town retain $3,000 for itself to roll into next year’s grant fund.
The idea, Bompiani said, would be to continue to increase the pool of money, encouraging more businesses to apply and keep spreading the money around.
“I agree we are encouraging the town but do we favor somebody with that much money?” Bompiani asked. “I was expecting us to have more applicants and spread that $10,000 around to encourage more businesses to move this town project along.”
Setting money aside, Bompiani said, would send a message that the town is investing in the future.
Councilman Tim Palmer said he thought that by splitting the larger pool of money in half for the two businesses the town was sending a message that there are funds available if businesses are interested in applying for them.
The largest single award last year was for $2,500, Walters said, so this year’s payment was already a signal to businesses that the town was looking to support them.
Walters said the funding, while coming out of the town’s budget, is functioning as a matching grant and businesses are expected to go above and beyond what they received from the town.
Jon Henry’s General Store custom-ordered shutters, Walters said, investing thousands of dollars so the aesthetic would match the rest of the building and enhance the historical nature of the structure. Walters said the roughly $16,000 Jon Henry spent on shutters dwarfed the $2,500 he received from the town, showing a dedication to improving his store regardless of investment from the town.
“I think you’re rewarding somebody for putting money into their building,” Walters said. “You’re just giving them a portion of it.”
Councilman Peter Hughes said he thought the council members should use the entire $10,000 fund to invest in businesses that were willing to invest in the town.
“I feel like if we have money in the budget to help, these are significant costs they’re going to incur,” Hughes said. “We only reimburse up to 50%;, our reimbursement isn’t going to be anywhere close to their accounts.”
Jon Henry’s General Store’s application said it planned on spending roughly $20,000 on improvements and The Home Store plans to spend around $10,000.
All council members in attendance approved the motion to award the two businesses $5,000 each.
Council members Peter Hughes, Scott Wymer, Tim Palmer, Daryl Watkins and Larry Bompiani were present at Monday’s meeting. Councilwoman Peggy Harkness did not attend. Mayor Doug Bradley and Town Manager Todd Walters attended the meeting.