The Union Recorder

November 19, 2013

More businesses get BOOSTED

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — Three downtown Milledgeville businesses received $1,000 checks Monday from the Downtown Development Authority’s (DDA) BOOST grant program.

BOOST provides grant money to small business owners and entrepreneurs.

The second round rewarded Need-a-Nerd, Chandler Brothers Ace Hardware and The Milledgeville Film Festival, LLC.

BOOSTERS gathered at the Milledgeville Main Street office to ambush the winning businesses with a big check. 

The Publishers’ Clearinghouse-style announcements are part of the excitement gathering behind this grassroots small business grant initiative.

Need-a-Nerd, Milledgeville’s one-stop tech shop for personal electronic repairs, plans to use the grant for a digital video security system to protect expensive electronics housed in the storefront.

Co-owner Tommy Cook said the grant was a dream come true.

“Ever since we’ve moved into this space, we’ve known we need a good security system to watch our equipment and inventory while we aren’t here,” Cook said. “This really means the world to us, and we cannot thank the BOOST program enough for allowing us to have that peace of mind.”

Also, Cook said the business will purchase a Nest thermostat to reduce utility bills and carbon footprint.

Ace owner Len Aubry said the long-standing downtown hardware store would put the money toward new signage.

“Our signs out front have been here as long as we have I guess. They were updated 20 or 30 years ago and are kind of dangerous,” Aubry said. “They are old and look like they are going to fall. We are going to get some new, cleaner updated signs.”

Aubry said the BOOST program was a good community thing for people to get involved in.

Milledgeville Film Festival founder Jeremiah Bennett was excited to receive the BOOST dollars. The film festival set for April 25-27 features an opening night gala at Georgia College’s Magnolia Ballroom.

Bennett said the $1,000 would help fund the kickoff festivities by purchasing/renting items including the red carpet, photo backdrop and flying in VIP keynote speakers. He was humbled to know BOOST wanted to give the festival a shot.

“This money means a lot to myself and the Milledgeville Film Festival. It’s really going to bring a lot of people here to town for our red carpet gala event, so we really excited about that,” Bennett said. “Thanks BOOST Milledgeville.”

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

For this round of the BOOST program, 13 applications were received with requests for repairs, renovations, awnings, signs as well as business equipment.

Several applicants are outside of the immediate downtown blocks.

Milledgeville Main Street and DDA director Carlee Schulte said the program isn’t just for downtown businesses.

“We are encouraging outside businesses to apply,” Schulte said. “We want them to get the opportunity also. Whoever wins isn’t based on downtown development. It’s about local economics.”

The Milledgeville DDA’s BOOST initiative previously handed out its first grants in August to Amici Italian Café, Hair Bar and Blossoms Florist. Each received $1,000 from the small business incentive program.

The program now has 42 members that have pledged to donate $100 twice a year, and some even more. A group vote determines where the money goes.

Local businesses and community members are realizing the impact that a grant program like BOOST can make for downtown businesses and entrepreneurs.

The small monetary donation from many creates the ability to provide larger grants to these business owners. This infusion of capital into the local community is a new creative way to help.

Schulte said more than 10 BOOSTERS signed on since August. The amount of applications for the grants nearly doubled as well.

Schulte is proud to see the city using “a new and different kind of economic development.”

“It’s the community members and businesses that have put in money for this that is really what makes it possible,” Schulte said. “It goes to show that businesses need this and people want to help, and we are doing it all here for our local economy. Right now, I think everybody needs this because we can’t rely on the federal government.”

Anyone who is interested in joining this venture or has questions about the group can contact the Downtown Development Authority/Milledgeville Main Street at 478-414-4014. Make sure to ‘like’ the new Facebook page, BOOST Milledgeville.