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City Told To Reallocate Funding For Downtown Programming

City of Jamestown officials have been told to reallocate around $300,000 in funding that was once allocated toward bringing the “wow” factor to downtown events.

On Wednesday during a Jamestown Local Development Corp. board meeting, Crystal Surdyk, city development director, said state officials have informed city officials to reallocate the funds that were originally designated for the Fund for Downtown Programming, which was part of the state’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) award in 2016. She said state officials would like the funding to be used similarly to how city officials used the CARES Act funding it has received, with most of the funds going toward assisting businesses.

“Because of the unknowns, we don’t know what the coming year holds for events. It’s not likely large events will be held,” she said.

Surdyk said state officials would like city officials to expend the DRI funding as soon as possible. She said prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the remaining amount of money in the Fund for Downtown Programming had been awarded to future events. However, after the pandemic, which lead to the cancellation of large public events, the funding was never allocated to event organizers.

“The funding was awarded, but not dispersed,” she said.

Surdyk said her recommendation to the board is to possibly allocate the remaining funds to organizations that had applied and been approved for the DRI funding for events, with each grant being for how much revenue was expected to be generated. As an example, Surdyk said an organization had applied for $50,000 in funding for a cook-off event, with the expected revenue being $8,000. She said instead of providing the organization a $50,000 grant, city officials could provide the $8,000 in expected revenue.

“(An organization) would still have the same opportunity to bring in the same amount of money as they would have if they had the event, but they would have to resubmit their application to include a narrative for what they will use (the grant) for,” she said. “This will also open up additional funds so we can offer additional grants.”

Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist suggested that the funds could go toward assisting the arts and cultural institutions in the city that have been impacted negatively by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’ve received call after call from different organizations that haven’t qualified for (Paycheck Protection Program) loans,” he said. “We could utilize some of the funding, after checking with the state, to use as a grant mechanism for those organizations.”

Surdyk said the original maximum grant an applicant could apply for was $50,000 for the Fund for Downtown Programming. However, she said for the new grant opportunity the maximum should be $20,000, which is what it was for businesses applying for CARES Act funding.

“I think it’s meant to be a lifeline,” she said. “It’s not going to sustain a business, but give them a little bit of relief.”

Sundquist asked Surdyk to finalize the application process for the remaining DRI funding for the board to vote on at its next meeting.

Through 2019, about half of the $600,000 originally allocated for the Fund for Downtown Programming had been spent. In 2019, eight events were held in the city that received program funding that included the Gospel Explosion to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Emmanuel Baptist Church; Robert H. Jackson Center’s sponsorship of Bob Woodward speaking at the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts; the band Guster playing at the Reg; funding for the second Whirlybird Music & Arts Festival; the inaugural Third Street Beer and Wine Festival; the first Best Day Ever Jamestown event; a second headliner for the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival; and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra to perform The Music of Queen: A Rock Symphony at The Reg.

In other business, Stephanie Wright, city economic development coordinator, said city officials have decided to create two new loan programs. One will be for small business start-up assistance and the other would consolidate all of the other JLDC loans available. She said the small business start-up loan would be for $10,000 to $15,000 each. She said there would be a limit of only allocating two loans a year because each would be labor intensive for the city’s Development Department staff. She said the total loan fund would be for $120,000, which will be a revolving, so as businesses repay their loans, the fund will be replenished. She added each business could have half of the estimated project cost covered by the loan, with the other 50 percent coming from a bank or themselves.

Wright said the second loan would have a range of $15,000 to $75,000. She said each loan will have a fixed interest rate that will be determined by the risk, credit history and the applicant’s project. She said the loan could cover 50% of the project cost, with 40% coming from another financial institute loan and 10% from the applicant. She added the applicant would partner with the Small Business Development Center at Jamestown Community College, who would assist them with the project.

Sundquist asked Wright to finalize the new loan proposals for the board to vote on at its next meeting.

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