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How east side businesses will get grants from cannabis tax, pending city council vote

State Journal Register

Tuesday, June 21, 2022  |  Article  |  Steven Spearie

Darnell Pettford was recently approved for a $20,000 grant funded by City of Springfield taxes on recreational cannabis sales.

If the City Council approves an ordinance Tuesday on its consent agenda, Pettford, the owner of Genesis Beauty and Barber Shop at 1327 E. Cook St., will get to use the money to put a new roof on his building as well as do some painting.

"If I don't get the roof done, it'll be damaged," said Pettford, now the lone barber in the shop. "I appreciate (the grant). I thank God. I thank the city. Everything is working out well. I'm thankful my name is on the list and I got those funds. I'm thankful for all of it, whatever I can get."

Pettford's shop was one of 22 businesses approved for $622,719 in the first round of disbursements made through the city's Office of Planning and Economic Development (OPED).

Sixty-nine minority-owned businesses in an area bound by Carpenter and Ash streets and Dirksen Parkway and the 10th Street rail corridor applied for the grants.

When recreational cannabis became legal in Illinois, the city implemented a 3% local sales tax--the maximum allowed under state law--with half going to fund economic development projects on the city’s east side.

Under a separate ordinance also on the consent agenda Tuesday, 14 of those 22 businesses will be up for the same amount of funds through the city's Far East Side Tax Increment Financing (TIF).

An allocation of $76,000 earlier went to east side homeowners to spruce up their properties.

Ward 2 Ald. Shawn Gregory, who helped craft the program with former Ward 3 Ald. and now State Sen. Doris Turner and Ward 8 Ald. Erin Conley, said businesses are eligible up to $100,000, so there may be a situation where they may be able to come back in subsequent years to get closer to that mark.

The next round of grants will go to different applicants to spread the wealth, he said.

The grants awarded ranged from $43,719 to $5,000. The average grant was $28,305.

Businesses applied in the spring and were ultimately scored by OPED. Pending city council approval, the funds should be available to businesses next month.

"It gives a source of revenue that is going to continue to grow and continue to be something that could be used as a tool for investment in this community," Gregory said last week. "It's going to take every tool in the toolbox to fix our community.

"We should at the very least make sure that some of that revenue goes back into the community in a positive way to improve communities. It's a tax (the city is) collecting, just like on alcohol, so we want to be responsible with that."

Mary Clay of Clay's Popeye's BBQ, 1119-1123 S. Grand Ave. East, said the restaurant's $40,000 grant will go towards addressing heating and air conditioning needs there as well as shoring up some flooring in the restaurant.

Clay said she would also like to see the restaurant get a drive-thru window on its east side. A drive-thru accounted for about a quarter of the business when the restaurant was located on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Clay said. The restaurant has been on South Grand Avenue for 25 years now.

Lisa Gaines recently opened Luxe Floral to the public at 422 S. 11th St. 

The $25,000 grant will help Gaines buy a three-door walk-in cooler as well as help with inventory and hire a part-time worker.

"I'm sure they're going to give businesses consideration that didn't get the grant at all the first time, which is fine," said Gaines, who applied for $60,000. "After that, I guess they'll reevaluate some of the businesses that didn't get what they asked for. 

"I'm happy other businesses were able to utilize it, even with the decrease in the amount and I'm happy because other businesses need the opportunity as well."

Merrill McDaniels of L&M Gym & Kids, Inc. said the $40,000 grant will be used for facility and equipment upgrades.

The gym at 2717 S. 11th St. has been around since 1975 and is now training second- and third generation athletes, McDaniels said.

"Even with small sums, we've been able to do big things for our community," McDaniels said.

L&M Gym and Popeye's BBQ are among the businesses that got a matching amount from the TIF fund, according to information provided by OPED.

Gregory admitted there were skeptics in community about whether the funding would ever come through.

"(Some people said), 'Yeah, we'll never see that money. You'll never release that,'" he said. "Now it's on the consent agenda. We'll be able to prove this program is going to work for us."

Clay said she never felt discouraged by the process or doubtful the city would come through.

"(My daughter, Demetria) always kept me encouraged," Clay said. "Dee said, 'Mama, you put your application in and you wait. Don't worry about it.' I don't think they'd say they'd do it if they weren't going to do it."

McDaniels said one of the former gymnasts brought the grant funding to her attention.

Like Clay, McDaniels stood steadfast in believing the funding would come to fruition.

"I'm a very positive person," she said. "You don't last as long as we have and deal with challenges that have come along the way if you're not a positive person. We are strong believers in God in our details. He is the chairman of our board.

"My husband teases me and says you look for the rainbow every day and I do, and I expect great things. If something doesn't happen, we go to Plan B. We don't let bad or difficult win."

Like with the cannabis tax grants, Gregory said he would continue to fight for fair funding sources for the east side. Even after the application process closed, he and others from OPED, including Ravi Doshi, had conversations with businesses about the next go-around and preparation process.

"I'm happy for our community overall," Gregory said.

"It's a special moment for everyone. We had 69 applicants this time. I hope we have 150 next time."

Businesses receiving grants from city's cannabis tax

  • Freedom in Holiness Mission, 1430 Loveland, $5,000
  • Ms. D's Kitchen & Bar & Grill, 1031 S. 11th St., $40,000
  • Clay's Popeye's BBQ, 1119-1123 S. Grand Ave. East, $40,000
  • Bishop Communication Group LLC, 810 S. 11th St., $40,000
  • B.O.N.E., LLC, 1124 S. Grand Ave. East, $43,719
  • More Scrubs, LLC, 2701 Old Rochester Rd., $40,000
  • L&M Gym & Kids, Inc., 2717 S. 11th St., $40,000
  • Environ Pest Elimination, Inc., 1720 E. Spruce, $40,000
  • Kings of Clubs Bourbon St. Rhythm & Ribs., Inc., 1031 S. Grand Ave. East, $40,000
  • Central Lodge #3, 1310 E. Adams St., $9,000
  • Carter's Fish Market, 1900 S. Grand Ave. East, $40,000
  • Exotic Edible Pineapple Drinks LLC, 2164 E. Adams, $25,000
  • Dirty South, Inc., 1231 E. Cook St., $25,000
  • LathanHarris, Inc., 528 S. 11th St., $20,000
  • Drake Commercial Cleaning, Inc., 600 S. 11th St., $20,000
  • The Motherlands Gardens Community Project, 2947 Taylor Ave., $5,000
  • Haley & Associates, 801 S. 11th St., $20,000
  • The Fadeologists LLC, 1431 S. Grand Ave. East, $20,000
  • Tammy Calloway Boyd's New Direction, 1831 S. Grand Ave. East, $40,000
  • Luxe Floral, 422 S. 11th St., $25,000
  • Ollie Home Care Services, 1816 Albert St., $25,000
  • Genesis Beauty and Barber Shop, 1327 E. Cook St., $20,000