During their general meeting on Wednesday, the East Ocala Redevelopment Advisory Committee addressed a general lack of interest from local companies and potential solutions to attract more applicants.
The committee, which is charged with reviewing and awarding grants to commercial businesses along the East Silver Springs Boulevard corridor, has only approved one application in the first six months of this fiscal year.
That application, which was submitted by GreatFlorida Insurance (921 E. Silver Springs Boulevard), was awarded a grant in the amount of $2,732.50.
Committee members and city staff suggested that cost may be the key hinderance behind the shortage in applications.
“We’ve had a number of inquiries. We haven’t had a lot of follow through” said CRA Manager Gus Gianikas.
Gianikas pointed to the cost of improvements as being a barrier to entry for most businesses.
“Generally speaking, most of it is financially related. Even though we’re giving them 50%, they have to have all of their cash upfront, which seems to be a hinderance” explained Gianikas.
In addition to the cost of improvements, some members suggested it could be the total amount of businesses being solicited.
Although approximately 140 to 150 businesses were emailed information about the application process, Chairman Todd Rudnianyn suggested this may be too low.
“We’re targeting a pretty small portion of the entire CRA” said Rudnianyn.
City staff and the committee addressed one issue that has slowed down the process with a potential applicant.
The Esquire Center, which is located at 739 E. Silver Springs Blvd., must get approximately a half dozen business owners to agree to the improvements before any grants can be approved. There has been difficulty in gathering approval from the business owners and in general from getting quotes from contractors.
“[The Esquire Center] is still very interested in the program,” said Gianikas.
He went on to suggest that like other applicants, the costs associated with improvements has not closed the door, but rather, limited their ability to do more.
“They actually don’t have a lot money in their HOA maintenance account. Their intent is to paint the building and to clean up the iron work. They’d like to do more, but that’s just all their budget allows at this time,” said Gianikas.
The agent representing the HOA for the Esquire Center estimates that the grant request submitted will be for somewhere between $4,000 and $5,000.
After going over additional projects, Vice Chairman Van Akin suggested that the potential applicants would be a good start for the committee.
“If everybody on that list made an application, we’d be out of money. We just maybe need to encourage some of them,” said Akin. Akin went on to suggest that the committee should send a follow-up email to show the success of the grant given to GreatFlorida Insurance as an example to other potential applicants.