Erin Community Improvement Plan supported

ERIN – Town council is happy with the Community Improvement Plan (CIP) launched in November 2018, and has endorsed an expansion to the categories of grants available to local businesses in 2020.

The town’s Investing in Growth CIP was created in conjunction with the new Invest Well community improvement program by Wellington County.

Both are administered through the town “to create an easier, quicker path to bring value to under-utilized properties and generate economic activity,” said economic development officer Robyn Mulder in an update to council on Dec. 17.

Since the launch, 12 Erin businesses have been approved for grants through the town plan, with three of those also approved for county funding.

For every dollar provided by the CIP, five dollars has been re-invested by private business owners back into the projects.

For 2020, applications are invited in two intakes, one at the end of March and the other at the end of September. Council has allocated $40,000 for CIP grants in the 2020 budget.

“The Community Improvement Plan has had a clear positive impact on the Erin business community,” said Mulder.

“Not only do the businesses receiving the grant funding benefit but also businesses that are being contracted to complete the work, many of which are local residents including concreters, engineers, painters, architects, builders, designers etc.

“This program is creating a positive trickle-down effect and is generating economic activity and prosperity for the entire community.”

Some of the projects completed or underway are building expansions, accessible walkways, parking upgrades, outdoor lighting, complete façade facelifts, wayfinding signage and restaurant patios.

Councillor John Brennan said he would like to “take the next step” and have the town measure to what extent CIP investments increase the assessed value of properties, resulting in higher tax revenues that benefit the whole community.

“We are investing taxpayers’ money in the private sector, and I’d like there to be a light at the end of the tunnel that has a tangible benefit coming back to the taxpayer,” he said.

Councillor Mike Robins said the economic development committee might be able to help develop a way to measure that benefit.

“A big issue is turnover in retail stores in town,” said Robins. “If this helps in reducing the turnover, it may not be a direct impact, but it could be an indicator of the success of these programs in terms of the economic environment.”

The town is expanding its 2020 grant offerings to include the full complement of incentives allowed in the CIP, increasing the types of initiatives businesses can apply for.

If approved by the town for funding, those businesses may be eligible for additional funding based on the county’s own set of criteria.

Erin incentives being offered in 2020 are: design and study grant; planning application and building permit fee grant; façade and signage improvement grant; downtown housing grant; commercial conversion grant; building improvement grant; parking and landscaping improvement grant; accessibility improvement grant; public art grant and the tax increment equivalent grant (TIEG).

“The continued updating and expansion of business shows visitors that the town and its property owners are invested in growth and take pride in their properties and overall appearance of the town,” said Mulder.

“With the increased number of incentives being offered in 2020 and the overarching support and funding opportunities for Erin business from the County of Wellington, the momentum is set to continue to increase economic prosperity.”