The Lander City Council has approved a recommendation from the Lander Economic Development Association not to award any funding to the groups that applied for half percent sales tax money this quarter.
LEDA wasn’t “excited about any” of the applications that came in this round, LEDA board member Eric Andrews told the council during a regular meeting Tuesday.
“We didn’t see any project that really provided a lot of motivation for economic development,” he said.
Councilmember Missy White said the decision not to award economic development funding to any of the applicants this quarter shows that requests for half percent money must be “robust” in order to be successful, and Andrews agreed.
“It comes back to: What do we really want to spend our limited economic development resources on to get the best bang for our buck?” he said. “What we’re hoping this does is give us better applications (next time), and to really create some driving economic development in the community.”
Eligible applicants for funding this quarter included:
-the Salt-Taco and Tequila Bar, which requested $150,000 for “renovation of a deteriorated downtown building in order to create a new restaurant concept and further beautify Lander’s Main Street, ultimately employing 12-20 people”
-Benessere Clinic, which requested $27,749 for “new cutting-edge equipment (to) further expand capabilities and improve treatment outcomes”
-Grand Marquee Renovation, which requested $26,925 to renovate the Grand Theater Marquee
-Lander Performing Arts, which requested $15,000 to increase “event success”
-Capital Improvements 228 Main, which requested $55,000 “to protect and revitalize a building that has survived over 100 years of wear and tear”
-Hub for Conservation and Nonprofit, which requested $45,000 to support meeting space for the Wyoming Outdoor Council
-Onsite Laundry and Showers, which requested $100,000 to renovate the outside of a building and install a commercial laundromat and shower stalls at 680 Main Street
White pointed out that some of the applications were “less business-oriented” and instead involved “bringing existing buildings into better condition.”
“To my mind, that’s not meeting the definition of economic development,” she said. “Catching up on long-term maintenance really isn’t what this (funding) is designed for.”
Andrews said LEDA is working to develop a more concrete definition of “economic development” so people who apply for half percent funds have a better idea of the project proposals that are more likely to be successful.
Until then, he said, “we’re looking at these projects individually to (see) what meets the best needs that we can identify within the community.”
For example, he said, the Grand Marquee and Capital Improvements projects proposed this quarter may have provided “some beautification” to the downtown area, but they “didn’t reach a level that we thought would really develop our economy locally.”
“We’re taking tax dollars and spending it on these projects, (so) we want to see the projects providing tax dollars back into the community,” he explained. “If we’re using that as a judgment factor, it’s hard to justify some beautification projects.”
The next deadline for economic development funding applications is Nov. 1, Andrews said, noting that the $136,000 available from this quarter will “roll over” into that pool.
“I’m hoping this (past) round kind of shows that we’re serious about this,” he said. “We want to see good economic development projects, (or) we’re not going to recommend they get funded. … We’re not going to just start giving away money.”
For more information call the City of Lander at 332-2870.