Economic development organization Lakeshore Advantage Corp . is seeking proposals to use some of the US Federal Rescue Act funding to support local businesses.
Ottawa County — which received $56.7 million in ARPA funding — has prioritized business stabilization, along with affordable housing and expanding broadband Internet service, as possible uses for the pandemic relief funding.
Lakeshore Advantage is managing the business stabilization portion of the county’s process to determine how to use ARPA funding, with a focus on workforce development and access to technology. Letters of intent to Lakeshore Advantage from organizations wishing to utilize ARPA funding for a project must be received by 8 a.m. on September 22.
“Business stabilization funding is critical to supporting our local businesses as we continue to emerge from the pandemic,” Lakeshore Advantage President Jennifer Owens said in a statement. “The funding priorities we set, workforce development and access to technology, target two issues that will keep Ottawa County businesses competitive today and into the future. We look forward to seeing the transformative programs and partnerships that will result from this investment in our local community and economy.”
Projects recommended by Lakeshore Advantage will go to the Ottawa County ARPA Task Force, which will select proposals to go to the Board of Commissioners for final funding decisions.
A survey that Ottawa County recently conducted drew nearly 2,300 responses from residents who ranked affordable housing as the top priority for ARPA money, followed by social and human services needs, expanding broadband coverage and stabilizing business.
Ottawa County commissioners began directing the first funds Tuesday, approving funding for two affordable housing projects. That included $2 million to provide gap financing for a $14.3 million project in Holland that will include 46 apartments all priced for people earning at or below 80 percent of the area median income. The nonprofit housing organization Dwelling Place is partnering with First United Methodist Church and Hope Church for the downtown development.
Another $1.5 million will support the financing of a $15.1 million development in Spring Lake by Samaritas Affordable Living of Spring Lake. The project includes 43 one-bedroom and 10 two-bedroom residential units serving families, couples and seniors with rentals available to people earning 30 percent to 70 percent of the area median income.
The nonprofits behind both projects will seek funding from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.
Ottawa County Commissioners also approved the use of nearly $47,000 in ARPA funds to hire GrayBar Inc. to do “medium” pre-engineering design work for broadband service expansion. The work will analyze the cost to build the infrastructure needed for a network that private sector Internet service providers can use to expand broadband service where it is lacking.
The work is “another step in our thoughtful and systematic process of determining how we can best address unacceptable gaps in broadband access across the county,” said Paul Sachs, director of the Department of Planning and Improvement. Performance in the Ottawa District. “Our rural areas are certainly challenged with the residents there and our agricultural producers not having access to broadband. I make field calls over and over again about this.”
About a dozen ISPs have expressed interest in working with Ottawa County on a public-private broadband project that would expand service to low-density areas financially, Sachs said.