City approves downtown grant project

Published 9:38 am Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Greenville officials took actions to revitalize struggling Commerce St. on Monday, passing a resolution that will give new businesses and existing property owners a tax break for investing in downtown.

The resolution effectively established the downtown part of Greenville as from the underpass to the Butler County Courthouse. New retail businesses opening in that area will be able to keep three percent of its sales tax per month for three years through a grant with the city. Property owners choosing to upgrade and renovate existing buildings in the designated area can receive four percent of the sales price on all construction supplies and materials, provided those materials are purchased within the city.

“We want to give everybody the chance to have a successful business in downtown Greenville,” said Mayor Dexter McLendon.

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Council member Tommy Ryan (Dist. 3) was initially wary of stipulations in the grant. For example, the grant does not provide for those businesses already operating in downtown Greenville.

“My only concern was with the existing business owners,” said Ryan. “But I’ve come to realize you have to have a starting point to take this forward.”

All council members approved the resolution.

The grant program is part of what McLendon refers to as “Phase I.” Like Ryan, he said the sales tax breaks are just an initial step towards bringing more commerce to downtown Greenville.

The project has already attracted its first business: Southern Treasures, an antique store, will be opening in mid-July. Three other businesses have shown interest in opening downtown because of the tax incentives, said McLendon.

Francine Wasden, of the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce, is heading up the project. A stipulation of the grant is that new businesses and property owners join the Chamber of Commerce.

Additionally, one percent of all sales tax made in the city by those businesses will be utilized by the city to promote the Ritz Theatre.

To qualify for the grant, a new retail business must:

– Make a written application for the grant provided by the city clerk.

– Provide correct statistics concerning monthly sales on or before the day of the following month to the city clerk’s office.

– Allow the city clerk, or designee, to examine, inspect, and audit its books and sales record as and when determined necessary by the city clerk to verify sales numbers and any other matters deemed necessary by the city clerk to verify.

– Join and maintain membership in the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce by remitting all dues and membership fees when due as a participant of the downtown revitalization program.

– Obtain and at all times maintain state, city, and county business licenses.

– Make its annual application for the grant.

– Not use its receipt of a grant in any advertisement or in any manner to discount its pricing in order to gain a competitive advantage.

– Use its best efforts to hire citizens of Greenville for employment.

– Meet all business code requirements for new construction involved in preparing the location for a business.

For property owners to qualify for a grant, they must:

– Make a written application on forms provided by the city clerk.

– Upon the work’s completion, they must document the total dollar amount of all building materials and supplies purchased within the city, document that those materials were used on the building on a form provided by the city clerk, and copies of all actual paid invoices must be attached.

– Obtain a building permit from the city building inspector prior to commencement of work.

– Ensure all construction is in compliance with the building code.

– Join and maintain membership in the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce by remitting all dues and membership fees when due as a participant of the downtown revitalization program.

– When the property ceases to be used as a retail business for a period of more than 60 days, the owner of the property must remove all signs related to the former business.