Micro grants to help downtown Aberdeen businesses

The Downtown Aberdeen Association received the go-ahead to help downtown businesses improve their storefronts, and Wil Russoul, DAA’s director, is happy to have that chance.

Russoul said it’s the first time to do something like this in Aberdeen. Since it’s the first time it won’t be a perfect program, but it will help.

Aberdeen City Council approved granting DAA $10,000 for 15 placemaking grants and five security grants. The placemaking grants should cover visual changes such as exterior paint, neon lighting, and additional signage, among other improvements.

The five security grants will help increase security measures, which could include lighting, cameras, stronger windows and doors, etc.

“It honestly won’t cover everything, so this is just an incentive for them to augment any projects that they’re doing,” Russoul said. “If there’s money left over, we will do a second round.”

July 1 was the first day businesses could sign up for the grants. The grant application window closes July 15. After that, DAA has a team meeting on July 18 “to evaluate (when we) try to do our best to pick the projects that are the most shovel-ready to move forward.”

“Should we be successful, we hope then to advocate for more money to continue such a program,” Russoul said.

The seven-person team tasked to decide which businesses get the grants is made up of representatives from Bank of the Pacific, Twin Star Credit Union, people who serve DAA and a member from Grays Harbor Young Professionals.

Russoul did point out he won’t be part of the “scoring” process that decides which businesses get the grants. He’ll just sign the agreements with those businesses. Russoul learned of this type of program from Olympia.

“When I toured the projects from their $500 micro grants, there was a lot of art, alley lights, all sorts of cool things that made their businesses have more curb appeal, more attractive to people passing by,” Russoul said. “In the placemaking grant we have listed a whole bunch of ideas for businesses to consider, and we’ve done a very similar thing with the security grant with being able to list a few of the ideas that we thought this grant could cover.”

Russoul hopes there are a lot of interested business owners so DAA can advocate for more grants of this type.

As part of the agreement with DAA, the businesses must take a before photo and an after photo that shows what their place looked without the improvements and what it looks like with the improvements. Then they get the $500.

For business owners who can’t afford to do the work it’s recommended they apply for the Good Neighbors Revolving Loan Fund. To learn more, head to the website for the city of Aberdeen: https://www.aberdeenwa.gov/338/Good-Neighbors-Revolving-Loan-Fund

The application explains who can apply:

“Any business or organizational entity who is physically located within the Main Street footprint of downtown Aberdeen — otherwise known as the Business Improvement District-Main Street footprint may apply,” the form states.

Businesses can apply for one grant award per grant cycle period. Business owners, under “enhancement responsibility,” are also responsible for all approvals to their enhancements from their regulatory partners.

Russoul knows the grants won’t help every Aberdeen business. He wishes they could.

“Our hope, I can’t stress it enough, we would love to help everyone in our main street program and everyone in Aberdeen,” Russoul said. “Except that, already $10,000 will not go very far in a 32-block perimeter. And so there’s not much we can do. All we can do is hope that this just sparks some ideas and creates some ideas as we head into the summertime.”

The notices — placemaking grant agreement templates — from DAA have been sent out via email. If they haven’t received one, Russoul encourages any business to reach out to his email at director@downtownaberdeen.com.

Contact Reporter Matthew N. Wells at matthew.wells@thedailyworld.com.