“When you’re alone and life is making you lonely, you can always go downtown. When you’ve got worries, all the noise and the hurry seems to help, I know, downtown.”
Downtown plays a vital role in our lives and the health of our communities. It is a major employer—in some communities, perhaps even the largest employer. It is our gathering space. Our arts and culture thrive there. It showcases our unique businesses and buildings. It’s where we go to “listen to the music of the traffic in the city [and] linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty.” Downtown is the heart of our communities. And, its businesses the heartbeat.
Things look a little different downtown these days. The lights aren’t as bright and the music is softer, but they’re still there. And, while we can’t “go downtown” right now, we’re each trying our best to support this vital part of our community. We’re eating take out. We’re buying gift cards and making donations. We’re tipping our favorite bartenders. We’re sewing masks. We all play an important role in ensuring the health of our local economies. But, what else can we do?
“Don’t hang around and let your problems surround you” – consider implementing a community loan or grant program to help your community today. These programs have always been a critical part of maintaining a vibrant downtown. Community loan and grant programs are more important than ever as we work through the economic impact of Covid-19. They’re a great way to immediately assist businesses and promote the economic health of your entire community.
There has been a lot of discussion recently, of course, about how to fund and structure these programs. We think some of the advice that’s out there takes too limited a view of local government authority (for example, we think there are several ways to structure your program to provide grants and not loans). We’d encourage you to think about what your particular community needs most, and then look for the best ways to address those specific issues within your resources.
If you aren’t sure if one of these programs is right for your community, here are a few questions to help you get started—
What are my community’s needs? Who are my community partners? What kind of funding is available? Who do we want to serve? Will the funds be repayable? What kinds of grant programs are out there? What rules do I need in place for my program? Does my existing program comply with all legal requirements?
Answering these questions can be overwhelming, even in the best of times. We’re here to make that a little easier. Whether it’s deciding which program is right for your community, or updating an existing program to meet your community’s current needs, we’re here to help.
“If you need somebody kind to help and understand you… and a gentle hand to guide [you] along” contact Ashley Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org (919-524-2096) to learn more about how a loan or grant program can help your community.
And remember, “You’re gonna be alright now, downtown…Things will be great when you’re downtown…Everything is waiting for you, downtown.”
To sing along with this article, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zx06XNfDvk0