“If successful we will have additional resources to provide to businesses to continue their recovery efforts,” HLDC executive director Mary Thompson said. “I think some businesses are still being impacted by the pandemic. The Minnesota Main Street COVID Relief grant is addressing those. They are going to begin accepting applications Sept. 20.
“That program has to do more with resources for operations. Some of the restaurants and retail and service type businesses are still facing some challenges. I think, as a whole, our community has fared quite well, but hair salons, massage places, chiropractors or cleaning businesses where you go into someone’s house … there are people who are concerned with the new (COVID) wave going through and have stopped going to those places, stopped going out as much. The movie theater is probably another one that might be impacted a little more.”
A $980,000 grant application for the Main Street Economic Revitalization Program has been submitted.
“We should hear in September if we were successful,” Thompson said. “That program will provide 30 percent of grant funding to help businesses in the Park Rapids community renovate or expand to attract more business.”
Thompson said lenders in the community have gotten together to develop a loan program with favorable terms that businesses can access for the 70 percent matching funds required.
“Not all businesses will be able to pay that 70 percent out of pocket,” she said.
This grant is for “bricks and mortar” projects. “My goal is to help a lot of businesses with those resources,” she said. “We’re looking at projects in the $50,000 range, so we could help 50 or 60 businesses in theory.”
This grant is for any business within the Park Rapids City limits.
While some new businesses have opened downtown this summer, there are still some empty buildings in town and others up for sale.
“That Main Street program can’t be used for the purchase of a building, but it can help with the renovation,” Thompson said. “That program is about getting empty buildings occupied agan.”
The former J&B Grocery store on Hwy. 71 south is one building Thompson said could benefit from the program.
“There are some cleanup issues,” she said. “One of the challenges with that building is that it does not have a heating system. It’s really just a shell. It’s going to take quite a bit of resources to get that one up to marketable.”
If HLDC receives funding for small business grants totaling $100,000, any business in Hubbard County would be eligible to apply for funding.
“These grants are designed to provide technical assistance and business development,” Thompson said. “A business could get assistance in developing an online presence or receive help with Quickbooks or one-on-one technical assistance. It could also help someone who is starting a business. The grant would provide resources to my organization to provide training and technical assistance.”
Thompson said the Park Rapids area benefits from tourism dollars coming each summer. “Generally, most of the businesses in this community do have a dropping off of business in the winter months because there tend to be less folks around,” she said. “They really do rely heavily on that summer income to be able to provide them with a cushion to get them through the winter.”
Thompson said to the extent that this was a good year, the likelihood is those businesses have a good cushion.
“Last year, when they didn’t have that opportunity, last winter was very challenging,” she said.
Thompson said in the future it may be possible to access communities and individual businesses through a Heartland Lakes website, making online shopping easier.
“It would be one place everybody could go to, a collaborative effort,” she said. “That has been stalled and I haven’t heard of any more work happening on that, but I think that was one of the thought processes behind the Heartland Lakes branding.”