04/27/11 — Arts Council gets $200,000 grant

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Arts Council gets $200,000 grant

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on April 27, 2011 1:46 PM

In November 2010, the Arts Council of Wayne County made public its intentions to find a new home. A month later, the Department of Commerce announced it would again be offering grants to member institutions with ideas on how to revitalize their downtown areas through its Main Street Solutions Fund.

That is when conversations between the Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp. and Arts Council Executive Director Sarah Merritt began about forming a partnership that would bring in $200,000 to help secure a downtown home for the prospective buyers, DGDC Executive Director Julie Thompson said.

"The timing was perfect," Ms. Thompson said.

Mrs. Merritt concurred.

"It's a big deal. It's a $200,000 grant. That's pretty much unheard of right now in this economy."

And Mrs. Merritt added that the move downtown would only spur on more economic development for Goldsboro.

"It's proven that the arts can be an economic incubator," she said. "The city leadership and Julie understand that if we can get the Arts Council down there, then we have the potential to attract more business to downtown."

The Department of Commerce informed Ms. Thompson Tuesday that the DGDC was being awarded the grant. Seven communities will receive more than $969,000 through the fund, which will create or retain a minimum of 119 permanent and 57 part-time jobs in addition to 84 construction jobs. The grant is given to projects that either help existing businesses or recruit new businesses downtown. In the case of the Arts Council, however, Ms. Thompson said it was both.

"The building also encompasses two other businesses," she said of the structure the Arts Council plans to occupy. "We were able to prove that, with the Arts Council coming in, it would provide support and help retain those jobs, plus bring their jobs downtown."

This allowed the DGDC to make the most of the grant, she said, as $25,000 is allocated for each new position that is either retained or brought downtown from the project. Half of the grant total will go directly toward the Arts Council's purpose, Ms. Thompson said, while the other half will be used to begin a loan program for downtown businesses.

The $100,000 will be loaned out to the Arts Council for structural renovations to the building, particularly with elevator maintenance, and if the money is paid back on time, there will be no interest. The pool of money would then be available to assist other downtown businesses either renovating or looking to open up.

And though Mrs. Merritt said the Arts Council's decision to move downtown is still contingent upon the city buying the building it's currently housed in, reportedly for an Air Force museum, Ms. Thompson said there would be no issues even if the Arts Council backs out of the deal.

"The grant is reimbursement-based, so if we don't spend the funds we don't owe any funds," she said. "We would just decline."

The Arts Council would have up to three years to use the funds for the move downtown.