The Union Recorder

May 21, 2013

BOOST initiative provides downtown grants

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — In celebration of Georgia’s Small Business week, the Downtown Development Authority announced a new downtown incentive program called BOOST. The Downtown Milledgeville Investment Group is designed to assist small businesses and entrepreneurs with funding needs. 

“The DDA values the dedication and spirit of local business owners in our community and recognizes the contribution they make to our local economy,” Milledgeville Main Street and DDA Director Carlee Schulte said in a Monday press release. “Small businesses are the backbone of our community, and this program will help to ensure that they continue to thrive.” 

BOOST provides grant money to downtown small business owners and entrepreneurs. 

Business owners are only eligible for the grant once per year. The money will go toward specific items such as a new sign, piece of equipment or marketing need.

DDA chairman Justin Jones said he thinks the program will encourage entrepreneurs and current businesses alike.

“I think it will be great for potential business owners or someone who has a business and needs a little help doing something,” Jones said. “It shows the community is involved and here to help each other.”

A group of investors will donate $100 twice a year to help fund the program. There won’t be a limit on the number of investors accepted into the group, and investors can join at any time as long as they are willing to make the minimum two-year commitment.

Once a quarter, the investment group will review the grant requests and vote on the recipients and amounts given. The grant amounts will be in increments of at least $100 with a $1,000 maximum award.

Downtown business owners can join the investment group and apply for funding. Avoiding any partiality, these members have to abstain from voting when they have an application in the running.

BOOST checks will be made out to the vendor or supplier assuring the money pays for the intended purchase. Applicants buying local gain favoritism when possible.

Over two years, investors donate $400 to help improve downtown and infuse capital. DDA/Main Street will house the BOOST fund.

BOOST is affordable for all community members.

Main Street board member Donna Collins conceptualized the idea to “put money where our mouth is.” 

“(Donna) said that she wanted to come up with something that local people can invest in that doesn’t cost a lot and helps downtown businesses. I thought it was a creative and unique approach. It makes it possible for everybody because it is a small amount of money compared to investments you might make elsewhere,” Schulte said.

This grassroots grant idea is popular across the United States. 

Other than a start-up meeting and quarterly meetings to make the grant decisions, there would not be a huge time commitment for the members. Members would also have the ability to vote via email since they aren’t required to attend in person. 

Initially, the DDA will focus on supporting downtown businesses and entrepreneurship, but if BOOST takes off, the DDA would consider expanding its focus. 

“As (BOOST) grows, it can do good things for all of Baldwin County not just for downtown,” Jones said. “I think people are going to get excited, and there will be a lot of involvement in it.”

The investor details and an unveiling of the BOOST website will be presented at the first meeting at 8:30 a.m. June 12 at Digital Bridges. 

Anyone who is interested in joining the investment group or has questions about the group can contact the Downtown Development Authority/ Milledgeville Main Street at 478-414-4014.

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