By James Neal, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Enid Regional Development Alliance heard back Thursday from the 2012 recipients of the Downtown Grant Awards, and opened the application process of the 2013 round of grants.
The ERDA board of directors announced last March it would begin offering up to three $5,000 grants each year to new or expanding businesses downtown.
Criteria for the grant awards were that the business be located in the area bounded by Elm on the north, to Garriott on the south, and Adams on the west to the railroad tracks east of 2nd on the east. Other criteria included:
• Does the business bring people to the downtown area?
• Will it increase sales tax revenues to the city?
• Will it keep people downtown after 5 p.m.?
• Is the business unique, and does it contribute to creating a vibrant downtown space?
Five businesses submitted grant applications for the three $5,000 grants last year.
The award winners for 2012, selected by a committee of ERDA members and announced last June, were Wheat Capital Running Co. LLC, 4RKids Foundation and Soapweeds & Cactus.
Representatives of those three businesses were at ERDA’s monthly meeting Thursday to tell ERDA board members how they used the grant, and how their businesses are progressing.
Tricia Mitchell, program director for 4RKids Foundation, told ERDA board members the $5,000 grant was crucial in opening the nonprofit’s new gift shop in the Downtown Non-Profit Center.
The gift shop provides revenue to support 4RKids initiatives, and also provides an employment outlet for some of the foundation’s developmentally disabled adults.
Mitchell said the new store has exceeded its revenue projections every month since it opened last fall, and the store now employs one full-time employee and three part-time employees with developmental disabilities.
“Things are going amazing,” Mitchell said. “This has been an amazing opportunity for us. It’s a beautiful space and we’re in a perfect location.”
Mitchell said the grant helped 4RKids purchase a point-of-sale system to manage inventory and finances at both the new downtown location and the original location of The Second Story – A Unique Book and Gift Store at 710 Overland Trail.
She said the downtown grant helped make the new store location possible.
“It’s been a blessing to our employees and our agency, and the new store has expanded awareness of what we do,” Mitchell said.
Errol Wofford, co-owner of Soapweeds & Cactus, told ERDA board members the grant facilitated expansion of the decor and furniture store into a long-unused basement.
The basement was renovated and furnished as expanded retail space for the business.
“This (grant) has been a blessing to us,” Wofford said. “It (the expansion) was an idea we had, and until this we were doing it a little bit at a time. This helped us get it done faster.”
Wofford said the expanded retail space helped make 2012 the best sales year to date for Soapweeds & Cactus.
Glenn McDaniel, store manager at Wheat Capital Running Co., said the grant helped the specialty retail store expand its inventory line when the store opened last year.
“The grant enabled us to broaden our inventory at the outset, to just give us a better variety for the runners and people in northwest Oklahoma,” McDaniel said.
He said the store opened with a solid business plan and has lived up to its projections.
“We would have opened and been successful without it (the grant), but it enabled us to do a little bit more, and do more of the marketing you need in that first 90 days.”
ERDA Board of Directors chairman Jimmy Stallings said he was impressed with the results of the first round of grants.
“I think one of the things I was most impressed with is that each of these businesses demonstrated that, with a good business plan and a little help, you can make these concepts reality,” Stallings said.
He said the board also was pleased with the diversity of the grant recipients, with a new business, an expanding business and a nonprofit venture all showing good results.
Stallings said the new round of grants will continue to foster Enid’s entrepreneurial spirit.
“A lot of the times we focus on big industry, and bringing big industry to town, but we still need to focus on the entrepreneurial spirit that has built Enid,” Stallings said.
Applications for the 2013 Downtown Grant program will be accepted until 5 p.m. April 15. Awards will be announced May 9.
Applications should include:
• A comprehensive business plan.
• Current and projected balance sheets and income statements.
• A brief paragraph describing how the money will be used.
Applicants also may be asked to make a presentation to the ERDA board of directors.
Stallings encouraged applicants to take the time to build a good business plan, for the competition and for the sake of their business.
“With a good business plan you can bring good ideas to fruition,” Stallings said.
For information on the downtown grant program, call ERDA at (580) 233-4232 or go to www.growenid.com.