Region 8 town offering grants for facelifts

HARRISBURG, AR (KAIT) – The Harrisburg Economic Development Commission is working to improve the appearance of businesses in town by using tax dollars for economic development. Region 8 News talked about a special grant the HEDC has this year, in which businesses renovating the outside appearance of buildings can apply for a 50% matching grant with the city.

Mayor Randy Mills said the city had $10,000 in grant money available for 2011, but only a few thousand dollars are remaining. He said two businesses have been approved for a maximum grant of $2,500. Two other businesses have also been approved.

"We want to help the folks out in this town that's actually putting into this tax base. We want to help them out. We want to do what we can for them," said Mills. "It's just sitting in the bank and nothing is happening to it and I think we're using it wisely."

According to the grant guidelines, buildings must have an active business or an active business within a month of the project's completion. It states only outside renovations qualify, such as removal, cleaning, repainting, repair, landscaping or other exterior projects approved by the city. All paint and awning colors must be approved by the city and all changes during construction must be approved.

Mills said residents made the grant possible by voting for an economic development tax.

"One cent sales tax here in Harrisburg, 1/3 is for economic development, 1/3 to parks and recreation and 1/3 to street and drainage," said Mills.

The guidelines require applicants to have the final project inspected before receiving the city's matching portion.

"As a chamber, we decided that we wanted to do something to help the people out. We're getting the economic development dollars in, it was sitting in the bank doing nothing, and it's to enhance the look to our town," said Mills. "Surely a business coming to town, the general appearance of the town has an impact on their decision to come to a place."

"It's a great deal. I'm glad they came up with it. I'm glad to use it," said Steve Guziewicz, owner of the Rice Well Company on Main Street. "We're just wanting to put in a big door so we can put all of our equipment inside, and keep children off of it, keep it safe. Keep the weather and everything off of it."

Guziewicz said the cost of his project amounts to more than $5,000. He said after the project, he will be reimbursed $2,500 by the city as long as the construction is approved.

"It's probably one of the first buildings in town in this area," said Guziewicz. "It needs some work. It's ugly and it's kind of a sore in town."

Applicants can only receive the grant one time a year, but applicants that did not receive the grant in a previous year will be given preference over applicants who have already received it.

Guziewicz said he wanted to build a door so he could park his heavy machinery inside the building. He said that would help keep children off of his vehicles, reducing liability of injury.

"We park them all outside and of course that's where the children crawl on it and everything. It's just an eyesore for the town. We want to make it look better for the town," said Guziewicz. "We have 6 different trucks were' going to put inside. Our drilling rigs, our pulling rigs, some water trucks and our service trucks."

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