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Economic development: Block grants may draw business

While the Farmington Economic Development Authority has been working its way through a new Business Subsidy Policy, a few funding options already exist to bring business to town.

The Dakota County Community Development Agency has a few funding programs set up to help businesses in the county. Some of those programs have been around for a while, Farmington city planner Lee Smick said, but are not often used.

Funding for these programs comes through what is known as the Community Development Block Grant, or CDBG, issued annually by the CDA. The CDA allocates a certain amount of funding to the city every year, but it is up to the EDA to act as the administrator to decide when, where and how those funds are used.

One of the programs funded through CDBG funds is the Commercial/Rehabilitation Grant Program, which offers a 1-to-1 match for businesses. It is meant to address safety issues and blight, among other issues. In the past year, Dakota County Lumber has received funds to improve its sprinkler system through this grant.

Because the Commercial/Rehabilitation Grant also covers the removal of blight and the clean-up of property, the new owner of the Oasis Market space on Highway 3 was also able to successfully obtain funding to remove the old gas tanks in front of the building, Smick said. The owner plans to clean up the building and turn it into office and small retail space, which fulfills the city's and CDA's requirements.

The EDA is also working to build up its Business Development Grant fund, Smick said. That fund is there to help new and existing businesses, or to help a business relocate to Farmington.

A business owner must apply for the Business Development Grant, Smick said. The grant can be used for work being done on the business, but with the stipulation that completion of that work will mean a business is able to provide jobs in the community. The work must be completed and paid for up front by the business owner, but the successful grant applicant will receive a reimbursement.

For instance, Smick said, the former Burger King building on Elm Street has been purchased, and a new owner is in the process of rehabilitating the building to fit his needs. When it opens again, it will become Baldy's BBQ. The new owner has applied for the Business Development Grant to cover the expense of installing a hood over the grills in his new kitchen.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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