More than 80 area businesses will be receiving funds totaling more than $1 million by way of a state Business Relief Grant.
Douglas County commissioner approved the grants for 82 local businesses at the Tuesday, Feb. 16, regular board meeting. Grants ranged from $2,000 to $25,000 with businesses having to meet certain criteria, which included having had a loss in the fourth quarter of business or was a new business in 2020.
Shari Prause, co-general manager and director of sales for Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center said, "We’re very grateful for any support given as we struggle through this time like everyone else. We’re looking forward to a strong summer with happy customers and associates."
Other criteria included setting maximum amounts for various businesses. For example, bars, restaurants, distilleries, breweries or hotels with restaurants could be awarded up to $25,000 while hair salons and barbershops had a maximum amount of $15,000.
Eligible businesses were those listed in Executive Order 20-99, or those directly impacted by the limited operation of those businesses listed in Executive Order 20-99. Non-profit businesses were not included in this round of relief grants.
Just like CARES Act funds, which were federal dollars, the Business Relief Grants needed to be applied for. The application process, as well as the distribution of funds, was taken care of by the Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission. Not all that applied received funds nor did all request amounts be approved. The total amount of requests made was nearly $2.8 million, while the total amount granted was a little more than $1 million. The state grant amount was for $754,292 with the county adding the additional $250,708.
Josh Waltzing, who owns Alexandria Martial Arts and Movement with his wife, Dani, said like many other businesses in the area, their business has been hit hard. They have had to make some radical changes to the way they operates and run classes as well as severely limit the size of classes to meet the guidelines set in place by the governor.
“The guidelines protect everyone’s health and they are vitally necessary, at the same time, they are limiting our ability to grow to pre-COVID levels as we are prevented from having more than 25% student capacity on our training floor at any one time,” said Waltzing.
For their business, a plus has been having the ability to teach leadership and personal development through Zoom virtual sessions. But he noted, however, that the restaurant community cannot serve food through Zoom.
“We consider ourselves fortunate in that respect,” he said.
Waltzing said the funds their business received through the Business Relief Grant will enable them to catch up on past due utilities, rent and other vital expenses. He did note that their landlord has been incredibly generous and understanding throughout the pandemic and that he is “immensely grateful for that generosity.”
He also said that throughout this past year, both he and his wife have been putting nearly all their focus on their team and the essentials of teaching great classes.
“This will ensure that we stay focused on the development of leaders in our community for the next generation,” he said.
Difficult road to navigate
Dave Gibbons and Adam Graf, owners of Copper Trail Brewery in Alexandria, said the grant will be used to help offset the cost of having to rely solely on packaged beer during times when their taproom had been closed per the governor’s orders.
As a business that relocated and expanded in late 2019, the owners said it has been incredibly challenging to get access to the relief funding that has been issued for businesses that were shut down or those that had to operate with restrictions.
“We are grateful that the county was able to take this into consideration for this round of funding,” said Gibbons. “It has been a difficult road to navigate with no assistance during this winter’s shutdown.”