Queen Charlotte council will review the way grants are awarded for business facade improvements after a pair of local business owners raised concerns.
Carl Coffey and Debra Erickson, owners of Crabapple Creek Enterprises, said that when the village posted a grant application deadline of June 15, they assumed it meant the village would wait until June 15 before awarding any grants.
So the couple was surprised to find the program actually runs on a first-come, first-serve basis, and nearly all this year’s grants were awarded in February.
“It’s very unclear,” said Coffey, who asked councillors to make the whole process more transparent, including clear rules on whether or not a business has to be open to receive a grant.
Funded by Northern Development Initiative Trust, the Queen Charlotte program has an annual budget of $20,000, which can be shared in matching grants of up to $5,000 per business.
Grants are not given right away, but as a rebate — business owners have until the end of the year to submit their receipts for new signage or business front improvements, and they cannot be reimbursed for their own labour.
Now in its third year, the Queen Charlotte program has always run on a first-come, first-run basis, but it has never been fully subscribed, meaning some of the $20,000 was left unspent.
Given rising interest in the grants, NDIT said it might have to cancel some of the $20,000 budget if it’s not allocated by June.
That is one reason why the village wanted to award grants as soon as possible, said Lori Wiedeman, chief administrative officer for the Village of Queen Charlotte, noting that there is still $750 left in the budget.
The village has so far awarded $4,250 to Haida Gwaii Revive Massage Therapy, and $5,000 each to three businesses scheduled to open in the former Rainbows Gallery: Claynail Crane and Construction, Coralroot Gallery, and the Little Green Dress Shop.
Wiedeman said Coffey and Erickson raised some fair points for the village to consider.
“There are some things we miscommunicated, and maybe it was just a matter of us being too familiar with it and thinking that we were clear,” she said.
Wiedeman said the village can certainly tighten up parts of the grant program, but they don’t want to make the rules so strict the budget goes unspent without good reason. This year, for example, the village opened the program to businesses outside the ‘downtown core’.
“The whole intention of this is to improve the facades of our businesses and in the past, we haven’t been able to use all the money.”