Huntley approves grant program to help bring business to town

Grants will cover up to between $20,000 and $30,000 of costs, or up to a certain percentage of total project

Small businesses in Huntley will soon be able to get help from the village with start-up costs, as well as expansion and improvements, following unanimously approval of the grant program by the Huntley Village Board last week.

The program was conceived after the village began looking for “creative ways” to bring businesses into town, Village Manager David Johnson said at last week’s meeting.

Trustee Mary Holzkopf said she is “beyond pleased” with the program.

“This is really near and dear to me,” she said. “Before I was on the board, this was something I was advocating for. I am a small business that very much struggled to open in town.”

Grants for business start-up or expansion can go up to $20,000 or 50% of the total cost, according to village documents. Grants for building improvements are capped at $30,000 or 20% of the total project cost. Code compliance grants are also offered and can go up to $20,000 or 25% of the total cost.

A project must cost at least $5,000 to be eligible, and the total cost of the grant program will depend on the number of applicants, according to the documents.

To be eligible, a business must be located within Huntley, be properly zoned and registered with the village, and submit a plan that can be completed within a year, according to village documents. Eligible uses include retail, restaurant, service and manufacturing, but could include more.

Those running either a professional office or a bar that make the majority of its revenue from alcohol consumption are ineligible, documents state. However, breweries and distilleries are allowed.

Grants will be awarded out on a first-come, first -served basis based on available funds, according to village material.

A full list of eligible uses is available on the village’s website.

Trustee Harry Leopold, who has owned a business for about 30 years, said he would have loved this kind of help back when he was starting. Although he pushed back on the minimum $5,000 requirement, saying it should be higher.

“That’s hardly an awning and a new sign,” he said.

One stipulation Holzkopf offered was that a portion of the grant be paid back if a business that’s awarded closes within five years.

Village President Timothy Hoeft pushed back, saying its up to the village to do it’s due-diligence and make sure the village is giving money to strong businesses.

“If you close your business because you didn’t make it, how are you going to pay the village back?” Hoeft said. “We’d spend more chasing it.”

The program is another step Huntley has taken as part of its emphasis on helping business in town. Last month, the village approved an agreement with the Retail Coach, a consultant that will look to help expand business in town and help those already established.