MORRISON – The city is considering a request for additional funding from the local nonprofit economic development organization.
The City Council, at its June 11 meeting, discussed terms for a 3-year extension of its agreement with the Morrison Area Development Corp.
The agreement includes how much funding the city will provide in support of the economic development group’s efforts. The group now receives $25,000 a year from the city, and it is requesting that the amount be bumped up to $30,000.
The council took no action on the development group’s request and asked for more of the nonprofit’s financial information.
“There was an alderman who wanted to see their financial statements before they voted on it,” City Administrator Barry Dykhuizen said.
Officials said the city was just doing its due diligence, and the development group’s request wasn’t unexpected.
“They rely a lot on donations to do their work, and the city’s contribution has been at $25,000 for at least 6 years, so I think they felt comfortable asking for more,” Dykhuizen said.
The new agreement would kick in next year and run through 2021. In a letter to Mayor Everett Pannier, MADC said the additional funding was needed to help finance an increase in the group’s development activities.
Its top priority last year was to establish a cultural corridor in town that started with the mid-December opening of Loft 112, an art gallery and studio at 112 W. Main St., in the heart of downtown.
Plans call for the arts corridor to eventually extend through much of the city east and west along U.S. Route 30, and on the south side of town along state Route 78, connecting the downtown with Morrison Tech.
The development group is looking for ways to accelerate the growth of the cultural corridor.
“We would like to be able to put some economic incentives into that district,” MADC Executive Director Kim Ewoldsen said. “Now it’s all promotional work, but we’d like to have grants or microloans available to help with building improvements.”
Arts and entertainment momentum is building in the downtown since Loft 112 opened, Ewoldsen said. A second gallery, Farbhaus at 104 E. Main St., is teaching classes and hosting special events such as Open Mic Nights.
“Loft 112 has more than 50 artists who have sold 197 pieces of art since it opened, so things have been going well,” Ewoldsen said.
While the city supports the arts corridor project, officials have said taxpayer money won’t be used for it. The economic development group pays rent on the gallery, but artists’ fees are being channeled in that direction. Organizers are in the process of setting up a separate nonprofit for the project while seeking donations and grant opportunities.
MADC has also kept its focus on other downtown improvements and its job retention and creation efforts.
“There is one vacant lot in the industrial park, and it isn’t shovel-ready, so we’d like to get something done there too,” Ewoldsen said.
When MADC started in the mid-1990s, completing the industrial park was the group’s first big project.
MADC shares an office with the Morrison Chamber of Commerce in a city-owned building at 221 W. Main St. The city doesn’t directly fund the chamber, but it provides the office space rent-free and pays the utilities.
The Morrison City Council will continue its discussions on the proposed agreement with the Morrison Area Development Corporation when it next meets at 7 p.m. June 25 in the Whiteside County board room at 400 N. Cherry St. in Morrison.