By SHANNON WATKINS
At Tuesday night’s council meeting, Economic Developer John White came before council to request permission for an Industrial Revitalization Fund (IRF) grant. The grant is to be used on the Dalton building, located on Washington Street across from the post office.
“One of the things that’s part of the argument about why we need to do something with the Dalton building is that we’re getting more and more people coming into your community,” said White. “They’re coming off the (New River) Trail, they’re coming into the Ratcliffe (Raymond F. Ratcliffe Memorial Transportation Museum), we’ve had over 2,000 people sign the guestbook at the Ratcliffe since May 4, after being open only three days a week. And people coming off the Trail and coming into the Ratcliffe are saying two things: ‘Where can I eat?’ and ‘Where can I spend the night?’”
“In order to put together a grant, especially this grant which has a significant match to it, you’ve gotta have investors, and you’ve gotta have people lined up,” he explained. White said that he and Pulaski County Community Developer Shawn Utt had been working with the West Main Street development group, but would not commit them to anything until he could convince the state that the Dalton would make a viable project.
“We have done some things that put us in a much stronger position to submit this grant this week, than we would have two or three years ago,” he said. He cited the new governmental center the county constructed at Maple Shade, the rebuilt historic depot and the arrival of Falls Stamping & Welding, which is bringing 112 jobs to the downtown area, pointing out that these things are all within three blocks of the Dalton.
“All of those, I think, are strong points that will go into our grant. But one of the things we need from you is an authorization that allows us to submit. And what that means is I will submit on behalf of the town and county, it will be a joint application, but what we need is this resolution passed by you,” he said.
Asked by Vice Mayor Joseph Goodman what the grant match was, White answered, “It’s one to one. And before Greg starts clutching his chest again,” he joked, referring to the potential cost of marketing the town and updating its image, as discussed earlier in the same meeting, “we’ve been working with the building owner, and some of the match will come from him in the form of conveying the building to the county IDA (Industrial Development Agency). We’ve been working with our private investors who have been working with other investors.
“You remember the Gall plan and how we focused on attracting investors? Well, that’s beginning to pay off a little bit,” he said. “And so we’re pretty sure that we can match it. First thing we have to do is get it. And I don’t think it’s going to cost us anything. I know that’s a concern. I think we’ve already put money into this by doing what we’ve done with the Depot and the museum. Now I think it’s time for others to step up. I think the county’s been really good about this, they recognize that in this county seat there’s not a decent place to eat downtown and there’s not a decent place to spend the night. So that’s where we are.”
Following his presentation, council adopted a resolution to allow White to submit for the IRF grant funding.