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Economic development: Block grants may draw business

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news Farmington, 55024
Farmington Minnesota P.O. Box 192 / 312 Oak St. 55024

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.

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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.

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