More than half of the $500,000 set aside by the Town of Queen Creek for a small-business grant program to offset the costs of safety measures due to COVID-19 concerns is still available.
“To date, we have received 52 applications. The total amount requested is just over $210,000, with the average amount just over $4,000, so we still have quite a bit of money remaining from that initial $500,000 that the council directed us to move forward with,” Economic Development Director Doreen Cott said at the Aug. 26 meeting of the town’s Economic Development Commission.
Town officials are using social media to get the word out on the program.
“This week we’ve kind of put a new social-media push to try to encourage the business community to apply and take advantage of the opportunity because as we all know, we have costs involved with the increased need for masks and enhanced sanitation — and even the signage required to direct customers to where they need to go,” she said.
The Queen Creek Town Council on July 1 approved allocating $500,000 for the grant program for brick-and-mortar and home-based businesses with a physical address in the town.
“After we got approval, we quickly put together the application and the FAQs and all of the information that we knew the small-business community would need, working with our other internal departments to make sure that we had a simplified process in place,” Ms. Cott said. “And we got the application and the FAQs up on our website — investtheqc.com/together.”
Funds are distributed based on the number of full-time-equivalent workers or contractors the business employed on March 1, at $500 per employee, she said.
“The maximum eligible award for a business is $12,500, so for businesses that have up to 25 employees, they can get the full amount. Some grants applications that we have received have more than the 25, but the maximum is that $12,500 and the reimbursement is for costs incurred in connection with enhanced sanitation, employee and customer safety. So this was really more of a public health initiative, the way we structured the grant program,” Ms. Cott said.
The Economic Development Commission, which meets as needed at 7:30 a.m. on the fourth Wednesday of the month, assists staff on updating and revising the Queen Creek Strategic Plan for Economic Development. Commission members are appointed by the Town Council to help define an updated vision for the town and develop a series of new strategies and action items, according to the town’s website.
In addition to discussion on the small-business grant program, the commission at the Aug. 26 meeting held by audio and WebEx was updated on commercial projects coming to the town and the first meeting of the Downtown Arts and Placemaking Committee.
Projects under construction in the Town of Queen Creek include Fat Cats, Fry’s, EOS Fitness, Backyard Taco, Trader Joe’s and the Hampton Inn hotel.
“Coming soon we have, as you all know, Queen Creek’s first hotel --- the Hampton Inn --- and they are still scheduled to open the fourth quarter of this year, so they’re aiming for a late-November opening; they’d love to be open in time for Thanksgiving,” Economic Development Director Cott said.
Other projects include:
“So those are some of the projects that are in the pipeline. We are lucky that they had started pre-COVID, some of them, but have continued through and we really didn’t miss a beat with these projects,” Ms. Cott said.
The purpose of the Downtown Arts and Placemaking Committee is to encourage arts in the downtown core, helping shape the physical and social character of the area. The committee will report to the Economic Development Commission, according to the town’s website.
The arts and placemaking committee’s proposed 2020-21 action plan is to be discussed at the Town Council’s Sept. 2 meeting, Downtown Development Manager Jennifer Lindley said to the Economic Development Commission.
“So again, it has not yet been approved by council, but I did want to share generally kind of what this commission is planning on doing --- or hoping to do. We’re looking at establishing a formal application process and criteria for any art or placemaking occurring in downtown Queen Creek,” she said.
“So right now, if a business --- even private or public property — wants to come in and do something, there is not a formal process. They would have to submit a signage permit or go through the development-services process, which could be cumbersome, and so we want to try to encourage that by creating a process and criteria,” Ms. Lindley said.
The committee is also interested in researching opportunities to incorporate art installations in the overall development-planning process, and reviewing art and placemaking applications to make recommendations to town staff members, she said.
“So, some of you may not know, but we get quite a few interested parties — such as school groups. The CLI Citizen Leadership Institute group has come to myself and our economic-development team and is interested in doing a mural. And so those types of inquiries and applications would come through this committee to be vetted. And then, of course, presented to council for their final approval,” Ms. Lindley said.
Commissioner Gordon Mortensen asked if the group could look for a downtown area for small theater groups to perform.
“I was also hoping they might consider the performing arts. We have the large auditorium ... but a lot of times, if individuals or small groups want to give a little performance and they need a setting for that I was hoping this committee might add that,” he said.