During a regular Main Street El Dorado board of directors meeting last week, executive director Beth Brumley said an announcement and more details were forthcoming about the 2021 Mini Grant Program.
That announcement came Tuesday as Brumley sent word that the mini-grant application cycle is now open and ready for business, so to speak.
MSE’s mini-grant program typically provides matching funds of up to $1,500 for interior and exterior — such as painting, lighting, flooring and awnings — improvement projects that are approved for businesses within the MSE footprint.
However, this year, MSE is upping the maximum grant award to $5,000 and may award fewer grants to fund larger projects, per the direction of Stacy Hurst, secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism (ADPHT).
In May, MSE was awarded a $25,000 Downtown Revitalization Grant (DTRG), a program that is funneled through the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program.
The program is an arm of the ADPHT, and for Main Street and Arkansas Downtown Network (ADN) programs who received revitalization grants this year, Hurst is encouraging them to consider larger mini-grants to help fund larger projects that are likely to make more of an economic impact within local communities.
ADN partners are communities that are not able to commit to revitalizing their historic commercial cores at the same level as certified Main Street cities.
A portion of Main Street El Dorado’s annual DTRG is used for mini-grants.
For the first time in 2020, MSE received a $25,000 DTRG.
MSE usually receives the maximum DTRG award, which had previously topped out at $15,000.
The state raised the top-end level last year so that local Main Street programs and ADN partners could do more to assist businesses within their districts who may have been facing economic hardships due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
With the additional $10,000, Brumley said MSE was not only able to offer COVID relief funds to some businesses, the group also saw an increase in mini-grant applications and awarded 18 mini-grants.
Businesses within the MSE district, which covers much of downtown El Dorado and extends south along Washington Avenue to the viaduct on East Hillsboro/U.S. 82B, are invited to submit applications for the 2021 - 2022 mini-grant cycle.
“They have to be in the downtown, Main Street footprint to qualify for aid with the mini-grant,” Brumley has said. “Every year, I get calls from businesses all over El Dorado and unfortunately, I have to tell them they aren’t eligible.”
While some $5,000 mini-grants may be awarded, Brumley said the most common funding levels will range between $1,000 and $1,500.
MSE has said the final award amount is subject to change, depending on the number of applications that are submitted.
Also, because exterior projects are believed to make a greater overall impact in the MSE district, such projects will be prioritized over proposals for interior improvements.
Brumley said MSE has already received several inquiries from local businesses about mini-grants for this year.
The deadline for businesses to apply for mini-grants is Aug. 20. Applications may be submitted to the MSE office at 101 W. Main, Ste. 410.
The MSE Design Committee will sift through the applications and make its selections, which will then be forwarded to Main Street Arkansas’s interior design, exterior design and small business consultants for a final determination of grant recipients and awards.
Once applicants complete and return their paperwork, they will meet with Main Street Arkansas officials on Aug. 24. Grant awards will be announced later.
Projects that are selected for mini-grants must be completed by Feb. 22 to be eligible for reimbursement. Brumley emphasized there will be no exceptions for the deadline.
For more information, call the MSE office at 870-862-4747.