Town stimulus plan fine-tuned | August 14, 2009 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Newsfront - August 14, 2009

Town stimulus plan fine-tuned

Businesses getting access to more marketing help

by Geoff Gillette

It's been four months since businesses in downtown Danville were given access to the town's new Retail Incentive Program, and officials say it is successful. Some areas are doing so well, in fact, that the Town Council was asked to move funding from one area of the program to another to allow more access to businesses.

Approved in March by the Town Council, the incentive program was designed to provide help to businesses during the economic downturn by using Community Redevelopment Funds to give grants to be used for either facade improvements or marketing.

Town Transportation Director Tai Williams, one of the architects of the incentive plan, reported to the council at its June 21 meeting that of the 25 grants available to businesses to implement marketing strategies, 23 have been taken.

The facade improvement grants have been moving more slowly, prompting Williams to approach the council with some suggested changes to the incentive plan.

"We talked to the Town Council about moving money from the facade improvements to marketing, so that we could offer more grants to local businesses," Williams explained. "Secondly, we got authorization from the council to allow retailers to use both categories of the program. Previously, if you selected marketing, you couldn't choose facade."

Community Development Funds of $400,000 was set aside for the incentive program. Council members approved moving $51,000 from the facade improvements to marketing, a move Williams said will allow 12 more businesses to seek grant assistance.

Town Manager Joe Calabrigo said the feedback they are getting is that the incentive plan is working, and the council agreed that it should continue to operate and provide assistance.

"How do we know it's working?" he asked. "We're seven months into a new calendar year and all of the businesses that applied for these grants are still in business. And in this economy, that says something."

Calabrigo said he thinks the marketing grants have been more heavily utilized because they allow businesses to work on new and different ways of connecting with the customer.

"We've really identified a number of ways to brand Danville and reach out to people here locally," he said. "We can ask them to reach out to local businesses whenever and wherever they can."