EDA reviews 2018 activities, impact on Chatfield community

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS E-Z Fabricating is expanding, thanks to a partnership with the Chatfield economic development authority.
By : 
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy
Chatfield News

“We had some really neat projects last year,” said Chris Giesen, director of the Chatfield Economic Development Authority (EDA), as he gave the 2018 EDA annual report.

The EDA – comprised of the director, Michael Tuohy, Mike Urban, Sue Keefe, Molly Baum, Randy Paulson, Paul Novotny and EB Allen – entertained a busy schedule last year and will continue to do so throughout this year, according to Giesen.

He related, “Probably the most time-consuming was – and still is – the redevelopment project on Twiford Street that we are currently working with developers to build a Dollar General store. We also spent some time working with E-Z Fabricating to help provide financing for their expansion, which is currently under construction. They are building a 10,000-square-foot addition and have committed to creating 17 new jobs but plan to create many more. We helped secure a $357,000 state grant for this project that will give E-Z Fabricating one percent financing and forgive $255,000 of the loan if they meet their job and wage goals within two years. These dollars saved by the business will help the business continue to grow in Chatfield, which is very exciting. Another fun project this past year was seeing Big Girl Stickers and Stems renovate the former long-closed Fortier building on Main Street – we helped finance the renovations with an EDA loan.”

The report shows the EDA’s focus in 2018 was on eight different items, beginning with the Twiford redevelopment for which the EDA “entered into a purchase agreement to sell EDA-owned property for the construction of a Dollar General store, negotiated and approved terms of the development agreement including financial assistance – leveraging tax increment financing valued at $428,000, conducted additional environmental testing concluding that no soil contamination was present, initiated resolution of several previously unknown title issues and extended terms of purchase agreement to align with additional environmental testing.”

At E-Z Fabricating, the walls are moving outward thanks to the cooperation between the EDA and the owners. The report outlined, “Project will create 17 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs within two years at an average wage of $19.06 per hour. Will create an estimated increased taxable value of $282,800, and was told that this was ‘likely the most favorable’ loan package ever awarded by the state.”

The Chatfield Center for the Arts (CCA) is still undergoing renovations to make the 1916 school building useful as a community center and lobby space for Potter Auditorium, and the EDA, as owner of the property, has to vote on what is done.

Giesen listed, “Approved renovations to ‘Studio I’ completed by Chatfield Methodist Church student volunteers, reviewed possibility of locating a hotel development on the grounds and the potential concerns, approved fix to water leak in the basement of the auditorium.”

For the residential development assistance the EDA provided, it “assisted developer with plat of 19 residential lots on Amco Drive and Wisdom Lane, created $130,000 assistance package for 13 lots on Amco Drive to assist families to afford new homes, granting up to $10,000 per lot to reduce the cost of the lot price for income-qualified families and assisted four residential developers with prospective projects.”

Community marketing, revolving loans and general business assistance were also part of the annual report.

In community marketing, the EDA “worked with vendor to produce 2018 ‘visitor guide’ magazine, and designed and installed new signage advertising Enterprise Drive lots for sale.”

The revolving loan fund makes way for businesses to grow, and the EDA extended a $45,000 loan to Rocky and Melissa Burnett to move Big Girl Stickers and Stems downtown and out of their garage, basement and other rooms the business was taking over in their home, a $25,000 loan to E-Z Fabricating, and assisted Wit Boyz in the modification of their loan terms.

The EDA’s active loan portfolio include ten loans in 2018 with a total principal amount of $1,157,054, the total principal due of $951,862, and the average loan amount being $115,705.

Giesen said general business assistance encompassed meeting with “33 individual current and/or prospective businesses in regards to projects, issues, programs, business planning, financial packaging and other financial assistance.”

Required reporting notes in the summary showed that the EDA completed an annual business subsidy report and an annual redevelopment grant to DEED, closed out and completed the final report on the Enterprise Drive BDPI grant, and completed biannual reports on the economic development sales tax grant funds to the city of Rochester.

In 2018, 20 new homes were built – permit values stood at $1,453,000 for commercial property permits and at $3,857,500 for residential permit value.

The EDA’s financial impact on Chatfield, excluding loan repayments, showed in the MIF grant for E-Z Fabricating, loans made in the amount of $70,000, and long term funds leveraged at $558,000 – totaling approximately $1 million, twice as much as the $502,456 leveraged in 2017.

Giesen commented, “There’s definitely an energy that occurs when you see all of this activity going on together. Our biggest asset is our people – we have a strong community that supports itself in many ways. But we also have a good location, and I think we’ll continue to see growth as the region grows, but we have to plan and position ourselves to make the most of the opportunities.”

He added that people are also the drivers for change in Chatfield’s business sector. “I’m always on the lookout for people with ideas that want to invest in Chatfield. Otherwise, when I hear from people on the street, they seem to talk about wanting more options for places to eat and to attract a hotel to the community. The past few months, though, I’ve heard from a lot of concerned residents about the pharmacy closing – this is a priority issue and we are working on different angles and leads to see what we can do to bring back a pharmacy. We also need more apartments and townhomes. We need to continue to provide a variety of housing options.”

Taking that thought downtown, Giesen stated, “We could definitely use more smaller spaces for smaller businesses and offices to open – I think there is an opportunity for the historic downtown area to grow its footprint. While there are a few vacancies right now downtown, we’ve definitely seen an increased demand for space downtown lately. I especially think there are big opportunities for mixed-use type projects where there might be a couple of storefronts on the main floor of the building and apartments above. We also have our commercial and industrial lots on Enterprise Drive that are currently for sale that are perfect for trade shops, warehousing type buildings, or similar businesses – they really would work well for those types of businesses that might be operating out of a garage right now but want to take that next step.”

Giesen has plenty to keep him busy as director, and he stated that he’s excited for the EDA’s projects in progress to be completed.

“I’d like to wrap up the Dollar General project, get some construction activity on Enterprise Drive, and see new residential lots platted or continue to see the strong home building we’ve seen the past couple of years,” he said. “The biggest challenges always seem to be related to timing. On some projects, we have to follow specific rules about holding specific meetings or hearings at specific times before projects can move forward, which makes project timing a little tricky, especially when dealing with weather and changing seasons. But, the process also keeps the public informed about the project, so there are definitely benefits to having time for additional review and input.”

Giesen invited those interested in building or expanding businesses to take advantage of the EDA’s availability.

“We are a resource that’s here to help,” he concluded. “We can help find a location, talk to landowners or realtors – kind of be a matchmaker, if you will, when it comes to finding a location in town. We can also help with financing and different forms of financial assistance. Financial assistance, unfortunately, isn’t always available because of the rules tied to those programs, but we are always looking for ways to leverage our resources to help Chatfield grow. There are a lot of positive things happening right now, there is a lot of interest in Chatfield, and hopefully I can help provide the resource or confidence so that folks move forward with their projects here.”