City officials to host training program on MEDC incentives

The downtown area is a hub of activity in the summer, and city officials are looking to fill vacant buildings in the district and bring in new businesses. (News Advocate File Photo)

MANISTEE — The City of Manistee has become a destination for people to live and vacation, but city officials are currently working to increase that potential for many years to come.

As part of Project Rising Tide — a statewide program Manistee was selected to participate in for 2019 — city officials will host a training program focused on incentives available through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).

The training program, “Incentives 101,” is slated for 6-8 p.m. on April 30 in the council chambers at Manistee City Hall.

Dan Leonard, of the MEDC, and Joe Borgstrom, of Place+Main Advisors, will host the event and guide attendees through various topics.

Lissette Reyes, Manistee’s community development fellow, said interested or current business owners, property owners or anyone who would like to complete a building rehabilitation project should attend.

“They are going to talk about the rental rehabilitation program, which is good for any business owner that’s interested in remodeling upper floors for rentals,” she said. “The whole idea is to assist anybody interested in opening a business or rehabilitating their property for rental.”

As part of Rising Tide, an event was held in February at the Vogue Theatre, which aimed to collect the strengths, weaknesses and most prioritized issues from Manistee residents. Many people in attendance said housing was a top issue, as well as filling vacant buildings in the downtown area.

Reyes said leaders involved with Manistee’s Rising Tide initiative thought holding a training event would be beneficial to help interested business or property owners, who may have lingering questions or do not know how to apply for a grant.

The training program, Reyes said, would focus on incentives and grants available like the Rental Rehabilitation Program, Brownfield Redevelopment Program, Community Development Block Grant and more.

“Part of Rising Tide is to support anybody who is interested in a business. We thought this might be a really good idea to tie in with the housing needs, and also to support small businesses,” Reyes said.

Attendees will have the chance to better understand the “pro forma” application, which is used for decision-making in planning when reporting to entities like the MEDC. Reyes said the application often deters people from applying.

“Part of the presentation will focus on what are the expectations, and at what point does the project look good,” she said. “I think (it helps) knowing what financial projects to pursue, if they think there are some tweaks they have to do, or at least finding out how much money they need to get started in the first place.

“I think that will clear up the confusion; a lot of people see it and get scared because it’s quite congested.”

The session will cover eligibility for MEDC incentives and allow time for questions and discussion with professionals.

At a recent Manistee Downtown Development Authority meeting, Borgstrom, who is working on an economic development plan for Manistee, said one of the top priorities for the downtown district should be filling vacant buildings.

“The downtown in particular is the front door of the community,” Borgstrom said. “The downtown is one of those things that people look at when they decide whether they want to come to a community. A focus of the economic development strategy and retail recruitment should be helping to build storefronts; that should be the primary retail activity for the community.”

The training, Reyes said, will help property owners find out the potential of their building and plan for the future. She said the downtown area has plenty of potential for rental properties, but due to the costs many buildings remain vacant.

“The point is to help property owners that might not have enough money, but the upper portion might be contaminated, for example, and that would be a good match for the Brownfield Redevelopment (Program),” she said. “Then people would know how that works.”

Those with questions should contact Reyes at manisteecdfellow@gmail.com.

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Posted by Ashlyn Korienek

Ashlyn is the cops & courts and city reporter for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3109 or akorienek@pioneergroup.com

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