By John Vaughn
ST. PAUL (April 13, 2011) – Today, the Metropolitan Council announced “Business aid during LRT construction grows to more than $11 million.”
This comes on the heels of the University Avenue Business Association’s public comment submission and press release last week detailing the inadequacies of resources for businesses during construction. UABA and the business community are happy to see the Met Council responding, but their announcement is confusing.
For example it refers to a $6 million forgivable loan and grant fund yet only $4 million is referenced in the “Funding components” section. It has not escaped our observation that parts of this fund were previously slated for administration as recourse loans. If these loans are now wholly forgivable, we congratulate the Met Council and its philanthropic partner the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative.
In addition, it was not specified whether or not the maximum loan amount of $10,000 per business was increased. This amount has been an issue for the business community in terms of whether the fund is even worth accessing for only $10,000.
The amounts referenced in the release add up to slightly more than $10 million and not the stated $11.1 million. Furthermore, the Met Council release says that the funding has been increased from $7.8 million to $11.1 million. That is a $3.3 million increase. Yet, the previous compensation fund was at $1.5 million and now the release says it is at $6 million – an apparent $4.5 million increase. This requires clarification.
The March, 2011 Supplemental Environmental Assessment prepared by the Met Council states that of the $8.7 million in mitigation measures adopted, $4 million was for the salaries of the outreach coordinators. See Page 22. What is the real size of the compensation fund? Clarification is required.
“They are finally listening, but survival time is short for many businesses. We need to get these resources into the community now,” said UABA President Jack McCann
UABA is two years old and has 240 members, making it the largest business association on University Avenue. This Friday afternoon, UABA will release the results of a storefront vacancy survey and compare it with December 2010 data, thus creating an apples-to-apples tracking system for changes in the commercial vacancy rate.
UABA will be using the same business list that the Met Council uses. UABA receives no government or philanthropic funding.
John Vaughn is the Interim Executive Director of University Avenue Business Association, located at 712 University Avenue, Suite 150, St. Paul, MN 55104. He can be reached at 651-641-0334 or [email protected].