At their August 16 meeting, City Commissioners unanimously approved a request for $154,509 in tax increment funding for the Downtown Development Partnership.
The DDP is a partnership of downtown organizations including the Great Falls Improvement District, Great Falls Downtown Association, NeighborWorks Great Falls, Great Falls Development Authority, City of Great Falls Falls, Great Falls Public Library, Great Falls Public Schools, Great Falls Area Chamber. Commerce, Ward Council 7, the City and Cascade County Historic Preservation and Parking Commissions.
Downtown group asking for TIF funds for operations, mural festival
Typically, the DDP reviews applications for downtown TIF funds, but in this case the DDP is the applicant, so the application bypasses the agency and goes directly to the commission for review.
The downtown TIF fund has a current cash balance of $3,894,228, according to city staff.
The application includes funds to pay the Downtown Economic Development Officer, operating costs and ArtsFest MONTANA.
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During the meeting, Joan Redeen of the Business Improvement District said “we know the arts are a driver of the economy, we know they are a driver of tourism”.
Sherrie Arey of NeighborWorks Great Falls said she supported the request.
She said they had murals in the alley behind their office and noticed the difference. Arey said there was higher foot traffic of people taking photos, which ruled out less tasty behavior in those areas.
Curator Rick Tryon asked how the artists were selected for the mural festival and if there was any favoritism from the organizers.
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Redeen said the BID contracts with Cameron Moberg to organize the festival and he selects the artists, but they push to include artists from Montana whenever possible.
Moberg has been coordinating festivals nationwide and organizing the Great Falls event since its inception in 2019.
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Moberg strives to pay artists based on their experience and the size of the mural. Murals during a festival often cost less than a commissioner’s mural would cost a homeowner.
Commissioner Joe McKenney said, “Downtown has really changed a lot in the past few years. The positive change is simply amazing.
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Commissioners approved the DDP’s request for $53,884 to be applied to expenses for the last fiscal year, which ended June 30. The request includes $31,234 to pay half the costs of the downtown business development officer. IDB and GFDA cover the other half.
Duties of the Downtown Business Development Officer include visiting existing businesses to identify opportunities and challenges; identify businesses and property developers to attract the city centre; business development services; downtown investment marketing efforts; and more.
The position is an employee of GFDA.
The request also included $14,650 in operating support, including $500 for membership in the International Downtown Association; $2,500 for the downtown website; $2,850 in advertising; $8,600 for attendance at National Main Street Center trainings and webinars and up to $200 for miscellaneous operating expenses.
The request for the last fiscal year also included $6,500 for the completion of the orientation plan and $1,500 for the downtown traffic box art project.
Part of TIF application approved for Newberry Event Center
Staff said in their agenda report that they can approve the funds as reimbursements, but recommend that in future, requests be made to the committee before or at the start of a fiscal year.
Commissioners also approved the DDP’s request for $100,625 for the current fiscal year, which began July 1.
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This included $34,000 to pay half the costs of the downtown business development officer. IDB and GFDA will continue to finance the other half.
The request also included $17,150 for operating support, including $500 for IDA membership; $5,000 for the website; $2,850 for advertising; $8,200 for participation in National Main Street Center programs and up to $250 for miscellaneous operating expenses.
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The DDP has been approved for $47,475 for ArtsFest MONTANA 2022, which is currently underway.
The commission previously approved $12,000 in fiscal years 2020 and 2021 for DDP operations.
The commissioners awarded $5,000 in fiscal year 2019 and $10,000 in fiscal year 2018 for DDP operations.