A third round of the Fairfield Facade Improvement & Marketing Assistance Program has been launched after the program assisted two businesses in 2020, it was announced Tuesday.

The program, operated by the Fairfield Economic and Community Development Committee, allocates grants ranging from $3,000 to $25,000 intended for the renovation, restoration and preservation of the exteriors of privately owned businesses in Fairfield. Funds can also be used by businesses for marketing assistance to stimulate commerce.

“The vitality of Fairfield’s downtown, commercial corridors, and residential neighborhoods has continued to catalyze positive growth and create tangible change,” Garvan Donegan, director of planning, innovation and economic development for the Central Maine Growth Council, said in a prepared statement. “Fairfield’s investments into the community and local businesses emphasize the importance of stimulating local impact and creating conditions of economic resiliency.”

During the first cycle in 2018, the program distributed grants to Belanger’s Drive-In at 84 Main St.; International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers 1253 at 176 Main St.; Meridians Kitchen & Bar at 166 Main St.; and Sunset Flowerland & Greenhouses at 491 Ridge Road.

In 2020, Maine Avenue Auto Sales at 23 Main St. and Sunset Flowerland & Greenhouses received facade grants totaling just under $80,000 in investment, according to Town Manager Michelle Flewelling.

Flewelling said there were only two completed applications for the 2020 cycle.

Sunset Flowerland & Greenhouses used some of the marketing grant money it received to help the business adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Sunset greenhouse was one great success story,” Flewelling said during a phone interview Tuesday. “They received a marketing improvement grant initially which they were using for radio advertisements and website enhancements … but they contacted me and wanted to shift to use the funds to enhance their website so they had the ability to do online ordering, which they didn’t have before.” 

“We were in the process of developing a website when COVID hit, and then we asked to add online ordering,” Greenhouse Manager Tanya Benner said. “It did help quite a bit. There were a lot of people who didn’t want to enter the store so it’s been great to have that option for them.” 

Decor is shown near a new window that was purchased with grant money Sunset Flowerland & Greenhouses received. The $25,000 was used to install four new windows and a chain link fence. It was also used to paint the facade of the business and a nearby warehouse. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

During the 2020 cycle, the business received a $25,000 facade grant that was put toward upgrading fencing and paving, replacing windows and repairing the roof. 

“Despite unprecedented difficulties faced by companies and property owners during the past year, local businesses have maintained an admirable commitment to the community, including moving forward on a focused range of restoration projects to launching e-commerce platforms that drive online sales,” Flewelling said in a prepared statement. “In turn, FIMAP projects are creating a strong foundation from which we can assist the local economy as we continue to invite growth and development.”

Since the program first launched in 2018, it has distributed a total of $67,591 worth of grants. These funds have stimulated more than $137,850 in direct investment into local businesses in less than three years, according to a press release sent out by the Central Maine Growth Council. 

Successful applications can be reimbursed up to 50% of the cost of façade improvement and marketing projects. 

Eligible projects within the facade improvement category include preservation and restoration of original and or historical facades; removal of “modern,” nonhistoric alterations or additions to original facades; repair or replacement of windows, doors, and trim; and the addition of signage or awnings.

Within the marketing assistance track, eligible projects include branding, digital or print advertising and signage.

“We currently have over $12,000 in façade funds,” Flewelling said, “and over $9,000 in marketing funds available to grant until the next fiscal year. ”

The program is funded by Fairfield tax increment financing revenues.

Those interested in the program can apply online or by contacting the Central Maine Growth Council.

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