Greene County could create new municipal grant program

ajc.com

Greene County has plans to change its municipal grant program to be able to fund bigger projects in fewer municipalities in the county.

This new program, called the Greene County Community Investment Program, will take applications from Greene County cities, villages and townships for projects these municipalities think would improve their communities.

The new program, which still needs to be approved by commissioners, will be a restructured version of an older municipal grant program. The new program will divvy up $750,000 for one or more projects brought to the county commission.

The county had been automatically granting funds to municipalities based on 2010 Census data and municipalities would report back on how they spent the money. This program existed four about two years.

Eric Henry, director of the Greene County development department, said the program could begin accepting projects on Feb. 1 as long as county commissioners don’t have additional changes they want made to the program.

“We wanted to be able to give communities more cash,” Henry said.

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Henry said to get the $750,000, the county will take half of the $500,000 allotted to the county’s Economic Development Incentive Program (EDIP) and put it into the new program. The EDIP program traditionally does not use the full $500,000, Henry said, so they felt it made sense to take from the program. The EDIP program will no longer have grant cycles, so eligible businesses can now apply for this program any time. Henry said this change will allow the county development department to move faster in assisting businesses with expansion or relocation.

“All together, we have $1 million worth of money going toward setting up a pro-business environment in Greene County,” Henry said.

The Greene County Community Investment Program will be able to fund projects from infrastructure improvements, like extending a fiber or utility line or making drainage improvements, to Main Street projects, like updating or restoring downtown building facades. These projects will be city or township projects, but they would aim to create the best environment to sustain business in the community.

“This program is empowering municipalities to be in the driver’s seat as far as where they want to go and how they want to develop their business environment,” Henry said.

The Greene County Community Improvement Corporation agreed this week to act as an administrative body to help commissioners review projects, but Greene County commissioners have final say on projects.

“This program was not created in a vacuum. We got a lot of feedback on the program (from Greene County municipalities),” Henry said.

Mike Gebhart, assistant city manager in Fairborn, said he thinks the new program will be “phenomenal.”

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“It is so competitive out there right now to get and retain businesses right now,” Gebhart said. “This is just one more tool in our toolbox.”

Gebhart said the city is looking at several projects that could be a good fit for the program.

“This could rival Montgomery County’s ED/GE program. I think this is Greene County stepping up and saying ‘how can we make the biggest splash with these dollars?’” Gebhart said. “I think it sounds like an excellent program.”

Melissa Dodd, Bellbrook city manager, echoed that sentiment.

“I definitely think this will be beneficial for Bellbrook,” Dodd said. “Bellbrook is the smallest of the cities, so we typically got less funding. Project-based allocation will open us up to much more funding. I think this gives us all the ability to garner money for a more solid project.”