NEWPORT, AR (KAIT) – Encouraging signs for the economy have emerged recently, but many small businesses are still putting renovations on the back burner. One Region 8 community, though, is offering some help.
"Especially in a down economic time, it's hard to have the money to reinvest in your business," said Jon Chadwell, the executive director of the Newport Economic Development Commission.
The NEDC will soon accept applications for its ReNewport Grant program. The NEDC disperses $25,000 to businesses inside Newport city limits that are in need of exterior renovations.
"Anything that's going to make the appearance, the safety or the accessibility to your business better – we will match 50-50 up to our part being $2,500," Chadwell said. "So if you do a $5,000 project, then half of it's paid for through the grant funds."
Nearly 30 businesses have received money from the program since it began four years ago. At least two business owners say they are thankful for the assistance.
"The way the restaurant looks and the number of cars out front – that's a real tell-tale sign of whether the food inside is good or not," Marcia Curtner said.
Curtner owns MJ's Restaurant on Highway 367 in Newport. She banks on what's served for lunch but says curb appeal is just as important as the menu. That's why she says she was grateful to receive a ReNewport Grant two years ago. The NEDC covered half the cost to repaint the building and its metal roof.
"There was no way that we could've done that without the matching grant," Curtner said, who's been in business eight years. "With us only having to pay half price really helped us out."
Curtner says the restaurant could use a few more fixes, including a new sign and some landscaping. She is now thinking of reapplying to the grant program this year. The NEDC will take applications starting January 15, and Chadwell says the money will benefit the whole community.
"One goal is to help those businesses do the things they need to do," he added. "The second goal is obviously to improve the appearance of the community. It helps the community as a whole because it makes us more attractive when the businesses look attractive."
The Family Practice Clinic in Newport received money last year for landscaping. "Our building looks so much better, so much more professional. It's just pleasing to the eye to look at," Dr. Roddy Lochala said.
A few shrubs and trees not only added to the building's appearance, but Lochala says they also make the community look better.
"It just makes Newport look better to have any business in town kind of looking good," he added.
To review the grant guidelines or to request an application, call the Newport Economic Development Commission at 870-523-1009 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.