By Hope Bolinger | Contributor
One often doesn't think of the words makeover and building paired together. But, thanks to the CHARM Grant, starting March 7, smalls businesses in Grant County will have the opportunity to receive a paint job, sidewalk repairs, façade improvements, among many other possibilities.
Headed up by the Grant County Economic Growth Council, the purpose of the project is to make small improvements in small Grant County businesses that will make a huge impact. The $1,000 matching grant will roll out quarterly, giving local companies a chance to apply for it before March, June, September and December of each year.
The first CHARM Grant winner will be announced at BYOC², a networking meeting held at Abbey Coffee Co. on March 7, but the applications for the grant end today.
Ron Sutherland, special assistant to the president, attended a meeting which covered some of the logistics of the CHARM Grant. He says the grant will be implemented for five years, four times a year.
"This allows people to apply multiple times for ideas and seek support as ideas develop," Sutherland said.
He also hopes, even though property owners are competing with all of Grant County for the grant's resources, as there is only one grant per quarter, that this will not discourage business owners from applying.
Kris Johnson, adjunct professor of communications studies and a member of the Upland community, sees the CHARM Grant as a wonderful way to invest in communities within the Grant County area.
"Sometimes the smallest updates or upgrades to a building or (thruway) can make a huge impact on the impression a town gives to those who live there and those passing through," Johnson said.
In a press release for the CHARM Grant, Steve Sapp, director of Marion Housing Authority, agrees with Johnson's outlook on small business improvements. When Marion Housing Authority decorated a small building in Marion with Christmas trees and lights, they received three offers on the building that had remained vacant for three years.
Member of the Grant County community Sara James is also excited about the possibilities available through the grant. She likes, in particular, the idea of using the grant money to occupy empty buildings, one of the possible uses of CHARM.
"I think this is (a) good step in the right direction for improving our town," James said in reference to the grant.
Although Johnson does share in James's hope that the CHARM Grant will improve the community, she does not want it to diminish the uniqueness of the spaces the grant will be used on.
She says everyone has a stereotyped idea of what a small town should look like, but hopes that CHARM will not impede on the individualism of each community.
Conor Angell, associate professor of music and community member, attests to the uniqueness of the Upland community when he visited The Christmas Tree Lighting last December.
"With people bustling around to different downtown businesses for hot chocolate, crafts, etc., (it) was the first taste I've gotten of how alive downtown Upland could feel," Angell said.
Angell is excited to see how the initiatives will make Upland more "charming."
He also acknowledges that some obstacles may crop up throughout the process of the implementation. For instance, the grant, taking place in a college community, will have to make beneficial choices for both the colleges in Grant County and those not connected with Taylor or the other college communities. Another possible obstacle is that people may have difficulty envisioning future possibilities when faced with the current reality.
"Often, that's what keeps us from trying to make positive changes, in life, or in a community," Angell said. "But I think if people in Upland are willing to have faith that our town could be a more flourishing, appealing one - and if they can pair that faith with hard work and resources, we can improve it."
Whereas all businesses are encouraged to apply, those with locations closer to downtown areas will have a better chance to obtain the grant. The application lists the three criteria which can improve one's chances at winning the quarterly grant: visual impact, neighborhood fit and community impact.
Applications close today and can be found on http://grantcounty.com/business/the-charm-grant/.