By Jef Rietsma
Nine Vicksburg businesses were awarded grant dollars from a pool of more than $60,000 at an Oct. 17 village council meeting.
Council members and Village Manager Jim Mallery discussed the matter at length during the meeting. Mallery said the matching grant money was offered by the Vicksburg Downtown Development Authority.
The village amended $13,000 of its 2022-23 fiscal year budget to help support the grant pool. With matching funds, the grants will result in downtown business improvements in excess of $100,000, Mallery noted.
Council member Rick Holmes said he has the good fortune of serving on the village’s Planning Commission/Downtown Development Authority board. Holmes said he recognizes the money to fund the grant dollars shows a commitment from Vicksburg’s DDA.
“From my perspective, this is the best that government can be, right here … we’re bringing public and private entities together to make something bigger than what would be individually,” Holmes said. “This is a moment that we should be very proud of and very excited. This is not a moment in time, this is something that we’re looking to continue to do.”
Mallery said the grants are retroactive to July 1, 2021. As a result, the grant will fund a portion of improvements at Jaspare’s Pizza and the Village Hideaway.
Recipients and dollar amounts are: Wooden Stitch, $3,000 for creation of a mural; Jaspare’s Pizza, $8,175; Village Hideaway, $15,000; Reed & Associates, $4,424; Rim &Rail Wedding, $4,171; Classic Mortgage, $5,940; Hot Flash Pottery, $3,317; KEPCO Properties (Apple Knockers) $15,000; and Fredericks Prairie Street LLC, $3,750.
Mallery said he intends to revisit the grant program in the future to address any downtown needs at that time.
“There just aren’t other communities our size that have put themselves in a position to create grant opportunities for our businesses downtown,” Mallery said. “We look at this hopefully being an annual-type thing that we can do and continue to have the buildings invested in downtown, which should create momentum and draw attention of potential other developers that want to invest in our community.”
Village President Tim Frisbie acknowledged the authority for its willingness to allocate funds for the betterment of downtown and the village as a whole.
“I’ve got to give the DDA a lot of kudos for stepping outside of their comfort level (by) approaching a different path … instead of just trying to do the same old façade,” he said. “One of the things our legal team was very adamant about was that it had to serve a public benefit.”
Meanwhile, council member Ryan Wagner said the village has a lot to gain with programs such as local grants.
“If we look to do this year by year, I can only imagine where, in three, four years, we’re going to be standing with improvements to our downtown,” Wagner said. “It’s going to be night and day.”
Mallery concluded by reminding the council that Vicksburg is Michigan’s largest community without a Michigan Department of Transportation road within its borders. As a result, Mallery said village council members and staff have to continue to think of ways to be creative and make Vicksburg a destination place.
By Jef Rietsma