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    Lander City Council approves economic development funding for five local businesses, organizations

    The Lander City Council approved more than $121,000 in half percent economic development sales tax funding for five local entities this week.

    The largest grant – for $50,000 – will go to the Maven Outdoor Equipment Company, which requested the funding to help “purchase equipment to build (a) new product branded the M1 Monocular,” according to a report from the Lander Investment For Tomorrow Committee.

    “This equipment will also allow them to complete the warranty work on the M1 Monocular in the Lander facility,” the LIFT Committee wrote. “They intend to scale the amount of warranty work being completed in Lander and will add more employees as that demand builds.”

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    Previous awards

    There has been some discussion locally “about the fact that Maven has received LIFT funds previously,” the Committee noted, but they pointed out that the company is “eligible again to receive funding” this round because their last award was granted more than a year ago, and their new request is for a different project.

    Regardless, Councilmember Dan Hahn said he has spoken with “quite a few people” in recent weeks who are “very concerned” about businesses “getting more than one award” from LIFT.

    “It’s almost like feeding pigeons,” Councilmember Josh Hahn said. “You throw the seeds out, and they keep coming back. … I don’t quite understand (how) we think it’s OK to keep awarding people over and over again.”

    Councilmember Missy White said the council should review the eligibility rules for LIFT grants again if they want to prohibit entities from receiving more than one award, but for now it would be inappropriate to “deny an application because they couldn’t read our minds, basically.”

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    Councilmember Julia Stuble agreed that “it behooves us to not make decisions that are inconsistent with those (eligibility) requirements.”

    “If we felt the need … to change those requirements, (that’s) a point of debate for us to have at a different time,” she said.

    Councilmembers John Larsen, Dan Hahn, and Josh Hahn all voted against the Maven award.

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    Dandelion Farms

    It was Larsen and Mayor Monte Richardson who voted against the $22,811 grant award that the council approved this week for Dandelion Farms.

    The business had requested $30,415 to help purchase a tractor and increase their offerings, according to LIFT.

    Councilmember Melinda Cox called it an “exciting project,” and Councilmember Julia Stuble said it was “compelling.”

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    Lander Lobos

    No one voted against fulfilling the full $25,000 request from Lander Lobos Baseball to help host a concert in City Park during the Pacific Northwest Baseball Tournament this year.

    “I think that’s where our half cent should be spent more on – is more funding (for) fundraisers for our nonprofits,” Richardson said, adding that, “When you have concerts … it brings new people in from out of town, so we’re getting new monies in.”

    “I agree with you on that,” Josh Hahn said. “I totally agree (with) things that are of this nature that are getting funded, because … not only is it something the kids are in, but it’s bringing other families into town.”

    Cox pointed out that LIFT had only recommended awarding $18,750 to the Lobos because the concert won’t “create long-term jobs,” and White said the council could consider adjusting the Committee’s scoring matrix so concerts and other community events would rank higher.

    Climbers’ Festival

    White and Josh Hahn both voted against the $15,000 grant award the council approved for the International Climbers’ Festival, which requested the funding to help cover marketing costs, wages for a marketing coordinator, and “board member retention.”

    White pointed out that the ICF has already received LIFT funds to help cover wages for a marketing coordinator.

    “I certainly appreciate the longevity of this program and what it does for our community,” she said. “(But) I have conflicted opinions on this one. … This is now the third time they’ve requested funding for that same thing, and that’s one I have a hard time wrapping my head around.”

    She suggested eliminating the portion of the ICF request that would go toward wages for the marketing coordinator, but the motion died for lack of a second.

    Elementary Performance

    Larsen and Josh Hahn both voted against the $8,595 grant award the council approved for Elementary Performance, which requested $20,678 to help purchase a leg press machine, a dual cable cross machine, and rubber flooring.

    The flooring portion was later removed from the request, LIFT Vice Chair Marilyn Fisher explained.

    Josh Hahn said he has “nothing against this gym,” which has “an awesome setup (and) good personnel” – but he would be “hard pressed” to “give them money.”

    “I’m related to business owners, and they don’t come and ask for money – they do their job and they make enough money and they save until (they) have enough to afford what they need to buy,” he said. “The businesses that have been here forever and are established (are) making money. … They can buy new equipment if they save.”

    Stuble disagreed with those comments, however, pointing out that the city “regularly” funds “quite a few established businesses.”

    “We have not set up a program that is only seeking to fund startups or high-risk businesses,” she said. “We have a merit-based program … making sure we get that return (on our investment). If we want to change the program, that’s a debate for us to have.”

    Wallace Woodworking

    The council unanimously approved LIFT’s recommendation not to fund Wallace Woodworking, which had requested $14,730 to purchase new equipment.

    “He really doesn’t have a business plan,” the LIFT Committee report states. “We’re going to recommend that he spend some time with the SBDC in the coming months. He was very likeable and seemed determined but isn’t prepared enough at this point.”

    For more information, call the City of Lander at 332-2870.

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