The name of the program may not be the most creative nor the most original ever conceived — even JEDCO Executive Director Jeff Davidson acknowledges that — but the Small Grants Program has proven itself to be a big asset to the economic development efforts in Jasper County’s small town communities.
Davidson provided a review of the program to the county board of supervisors on May 16 so officials could decide whether they wanted it to continue.
According to JEDCO’s website, the goal of the program is to provide financial assistance to JEDCO member communities for economic development projects that increase the property tax base and/or create jobs. Current members who are in good standing are eligible to apply for funding.
The small grants program has been in place for the past two years. Davidson said there was a desire by the JEDCO board to free up some projects in the small towns, particularly those that were stalled out. For some of the smaller communities, a few hundred dollars or so is still a lot of ground to cover.
“What we did is establish a program and make it very broad … If one of the eight towns or Jasper County had a project that they wanted to bring forward that had some tie to promoting economic development — either in the county or the respective small community — we would entertain that,” Davidson said.
JEDCO established a $5,000 limit to each grant, as well as a 75-25 basis for funding (the community has to bring 25 percent of the funding, while JEDCO covers the rest). Davidson showed supervisors that the grant program has helped to complete eight projects in fiscal year 2022-2023.
Projects completed during that time include:
• Sully residential subdivision platting.
• Prairie City zoning map update.
• Residential subdivision concept plan for Ashton in the Valley.
• Colfax local grocery store assistance.
• Baxter nursing home property consultant contract.
• Colfax City Council strategic plan update.
• Mingo residential subdivision platting.
• Monroe small business administration application fee for local grocery store.
With these projects completed, the program’s budget is down to about $3,000. Davidson said there is another $25,000 budgeted in the JEDCO budget, but he always likes to come to the supervisors and give them a status of the program to determine if they’d release that budget authority to maintain the program.
“I’m really pleased we were able to spread the money around so well,” he said. “We’d love to have an application from Kellogg or Lynnville. Those are the only two communities we haven’t helped. Good distribution of the funds there throughout Jasper County. And pretty much exactly what we intended to set out and do.”
Supervisors were very pleased with the program and wanted to keep it going. Jasper County Supervisor Denny Stevenson said it seems like “you get pretty good bang for your buck.” The supervisors voted 2-0 to authorize JEDCO of the spending authority for the program’s budgeted funds for fiscal year 2023-2024.