The Jamestown City Council and Jamestown Local Development Corporation are facing a good problem.
There are too many business owners looking to expand, add equipment or reinvest in their buildings than there is federal stimulus funding to go around. City officials are now in the midst of deciding how much, if at all, to increase the ARPA Building Property Infrastructure Improvement grant program from the initially approved $500,000.
Councilman Jeff Russell, R-At Large, has expressed concern that some of the applicants have already received various forms of federal assistance throughout the pandemic. That concern — a good one, by the way — has prompted Crystal Surdyk and city development officials to consider whether a business has received other city funding and prioritize those that haven’t received funding before. City officials will also host discussions and tour individual businesses.
But in the interest of making sure the city funding goes to projects that will come to fruition, it’s also worth suggesting city officials take a “last dollar in” approach to grant funding similar to the stance New York state has taken over the years. Under former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, state money was approved only when all other financing was in place — meaning the state money was the funding to put a project over the finish line so work could begin.
City officials often operate the same way, but it’s a good rule of thumb to keep in mind with the stimulus money.
More importantly, we know there will be projects that should be funded and won’t be funded through the federal stimulus program. An area that struggles to attract investment like Jamestown does must be proactive in finding ways to help businesses – whether that’s through pushing existing programs or opening new avenues of grant funding for new programs – so that as many of these projects as possible can receive some help.
The interest in the city’s small pool of Building Property Infrastructure Improvement money shows there is interest on the part of business owners to reinvest in their business. That’s a good problem to have — but it’s also a problem that won’t be solved entirely with federal dollars.