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Grants available for Dillsboro businesses

The Town of Dillsboro is launching a grant program to help struggling businesses using $200,000 it received as part of the value engineering proposal for the Haywood Road bridge project.

The town board approved the grant program, called the Reopen and Rebuild Dillsboro Plan, by unanimous vote during its Oct. 12 meeting. Eligible businesses can apply for up to $10,000 in funding to cover normal business operating expenses such as rent or mortgage payments, utilities, inventory purchases, payroll expenses and building improvements. Funds are intended to offset lost revenue and heightened expenses due to COVID-19 or to the bridge project.

“The town board would like to help our businesses and restaurants that were forced to close as ‘non-essential’ back in March,” said Mayor Mike Fitzgerald. “This board was proactive in working to recover from the 2009 recession by partnering with WCU and funding grants to attract several anchor businesses. We want to continue that tradition now by using this money to help out. This will help our small owner-operator shops as well as our larger businesses.”

Wright Brothers Construction gave the town $450,000 of the $1.5 million it received as a result of the proposal, which shaved $3 million and two years off the original $14 million project by foregoing construction of a temporary bridge while the new one was being built. Sylva, which did not receive a cut of the savings, staunchly opposed the change.

Haywood Road between Sylva and Dillsboro is now completely closed for the duration of the project, which is expected to wrap up in the spring. Official detour routes use U.S. 74/23 and more recently Old Home Town Road, while local residents have complained that Yellow Bird Branch Road’s status as an unofficial detour route has caused unsafe conditions on that route.

To be eligible, businesses must be owned and physically located in Dillsboro and have been in operation at least one year prior to Gov. Roy Cooper’s state of emergency declaration on March 10. The business must have reopened in some capacity once state guidelines allowed with plans to operate at full capacity once restrictions are lifted.

Businesses must pledge in good faith to remain in business under current ownership for at least one year after receiving the funds. Businesses with a pending bankruptcy, or that have been disbarred or suspended from working in North Carolina, are not eligible, and businesses must be in good standing as it relates to tax collections. Financial institutions, home-based businesses and nonprofit organizations — except those that function as retail establishments and submit monthly sales tax reports — are not eligible.

The application process begins today and extends through Nov. 16. Award amounts will be based on the number of full-time equivalent employees, with the business owner included in that count. Businesses with one to five FTEs are eligible for $3,000, businesses with six to 10 can request $5,000 and businesses with 11 or more can request $10,000.

For more information or to request an application, contact Town Clerk Debbie Coffey at 828.586.1439.

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