Lakeshore Advantage seeks proposals to spend federal pandemic relief on business stabilization

economic development organization Lakeshore Advantage Corp. is seeking proposals to use a portion of federal funds from the American Bailout Act 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 potential uses for pandemic relief funds.

Lakeshore Advantage is managing the business stabilization portion of the county’s process to determine how to use ARPA funds, with a focus on workforce development and access to technology. Letters of intent to Lakeshore Advantage from organizations that want to leverage ARPA funds for a project must be submitted by 8 am 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 in the future. We can’t wait to see the transformational programs and partnerships that will result from this investment in our community and local economy.”

Projects recommended by Lakeshore Advantage will go to the Ottawa County ARPA Task Force, which will select proposals that will go to the Board of Commissioners for final funding decisions.

A recent survey Ottawa County conducted drew nearly 2,300 responses from residents who ranked affordable housing as the top priority for ARPA money, followed by social and human service needs, expanding broadband coverage and trade stabilization.

Ottawa County commissioners began administering the first funds Tuesday, approving funds for two affordable housing projects. That included $2 million to provide gap financing for a $14.3 million project in the Netherlands that will include 46 apartments, all priced for people earning 80 percent or less of the area median income. The nonprofit housing organization Dwelling Place is partnering with First United Methodist Church and Hope Church in developing the center.

An additional $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 housing units serving families, couples and seniors with rentals available to people earning between 30 and 70 percent of the area median income.

The nonprofit organizations 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 contract with GrayBar Inc. to perform “middle mile” pre-engineered design work to extend broadband service. The work will analyze the cost of building the necessary infrastructure for a network that private sector internet service providers can use to extend broadband service where it is lacking.

The work is “another step in our thoughtful and systematic process to determine how we can best address unacceptable gaps in broadband access across the county,” said Paul Sachs, director of the Ottawa County Planning and Performance Improvement Department. . “Our rural areas certainly face challenges with residents there and our agricultural producers not having access to broadband. I get calls non-stop, continuously about this.”

About a dozen ISPs have expressed interest in working with Ottawa County on a public-private broadband project that would make expanding service in low-density areas financially viable, Sachs said.


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