SWEET HOME — Over the last two years, the Community Exterior Improvement Program has awarded more than $35,000 in grants to business owners to upgrade the appearance of their buildings, City Economic Development Director Brian Hoffman told the city council Tuesday evening.
And the business owners have spent more than $105,000 of their own money, Hoffman added.
Grant funds are provided by the Sweet Home Economic Development Group Inc. and distributed through the Sweet Home Active Revitalization Effort, Hoffman said.
“The goal is to revitalize the commercial district throughout town, not just downtown,” Hoffman said. “We hope to help make our local businesses more desirable places to shop.”
Hoffman said the effort includes more than money, as many volunteers are committed to downtown beautification, including tending to the flowers and shrubs in the median strips in the center of Highway 20.
Councilman Greg Mahler, who owns Hoy’s True Value Hardware, said studies show exterior improvements of a business can result in increased sales of 5 to 7 percent and interior improvements can boost sales by up to 25 percent.
Hoffman said grants range from $500 to $5,000, cover from 50 to 80 percent of project costs and need not be repaid.
Projects cannot be started before the application has been reviewed, and the business owner must obtain the proper city building permits. Reimbursement is made on paid checks or invoices.
Hoffman showed before and after slides of some of the buildings that have taken advantage of the program, including Santiam Feed & Garden, The New Era newspaper, Unified Insurance and the VFW hall.
“We will also pay for design work, as long as the building owner agrees to abide by the design within reason,” Hoffman said.
Hoffman said that over time, SHARE hopes to reduce the number of vacant buildings in the community.
“This year’s goal is to identify 10 key properties that could use additional investments and then complete at least two demonstration projects,” Hoffman said.
Hoffman can be contacted at 541-367-3061.