Roundtable: Are new city business grants moving Galesburg forward?

·6 min read
Galesburg City Hall
Galesburg City Hall

Do you see Galesburg's creation of grants to encourage minority and women- owned businesses, businesses located on the south side of Galesburg, and urban agriculture as moving the city forward?

Stephen Podwojski
Stephen Podwojski

Hope grants can encourage business development

This is very good usage of federal money via the American Rescue Plan Act. The money is already there so there is no drain on city financials. In essence, it's more tools to “accelerate growth” in the community. You can review the program's stipulations and forms via the city website. Also the business grants wisely will not be used for alcohol, gambling, tobacco, or property investors buying buildings to rent to others. I reviewed the Southside Occupancy Assistance Program stipulations for the coffee shop on the south side of Main street that was mentioned in the Register Mail article. Alderman White apparently took umbrage at the use of the SOAP money in that particular instance. Apparently it wasn’t “southside” enough for him.  I also noted that the council approved $10,000 for a multi-sport functional center on Grand Avenue. I hope these grants can encourage further business development in Galesburg. Like anything, the residents will have to support these local businesses. I have heard the constant whining from locals about how this and that business is closed or gone. If you don’t spend your bucks there, what do you think is going to eventually happen? — Stephen Podwojski

Harry Bulkeley
Harry Bulkeley

Good to help small businesses; don't discriminate based on race

Galesburg businesses can use all the encouragement we can give them. Small businesses are the foundation of local economies. It’s also admirable to try to attract business activity to underserved areas of town.

Grants should be based on the content of the business plan, not the color of the skin of applicants. Good ideas come in all colors and the city should not discriminate based on an applicant’s race.

Urban agriculture is an interesting idea, but I’m pretty sure there is already a lot of agriculture in our area. A trip to the Farmers’ Market will attest to that. When I was young, we had a different name for urban agriculture — gardening.

Making grants to woman-owned businesses may prove to be more problematic. If the newest Supreme Court justice can’t define what a woman is, how can we expect the program administrators to? — Harry Bulkeley

Galesburg grants:Galesburg homeowners could be eligible for housing repair grants up to $4.5K through city

Grants will move city forward if people apply for them

Whether or not these grants move the city forward is not really the question here; the question is whether or not people will actually apply for these programs and then follow through with them. If people apply for any one of them or any combination of them they will absolutely improve the city of Galesburg and move it forward.

Most of the business owners in Galesburg are white men. It would be a total boost to Galesburg if there were more women and minority business owners and it would benefit the entire city if there were more businesses located on the south side that the people on the north side wanted to patronize. More businesses on the south side would serve to unite our city. In order to keep up with the times and remain competitive, hopefully many people take advantage of these opportunities. — Jeannette Chernin

William Urban
William Urban

Generally don't like programs for favored groups

I hope that this small-town variation of federal and state subsidies works, but on principle, I do not like programs for favored groups. In practice they may be necessary for a limited time. However, as someone (perhaps arch-skeptic, Ambrose Bierce) said, “It is not right to mistrust your fellow man, but it is seldom a mistake.”

One of the characteristics of free enterprise is that failing businesses soon disappear. This is often inconvenient and it may seem wasteful. But the alternative — government planning — seldom works out better in the long run.

I have visited or lived in countries with central planning so thorough that distant bureaucrats selected even the locations of small coffee shops and used them to combat unemployment. My wife and I will never forget an overstaffed Konditorei in East Germany, where our coffee and pastries took so long to arrive that even the staff began to laugh. — William Urban

Laurie Muelder
Laurie Muelder

Good uses of American Rescue Plan Act money

The city of Galesburg and the Knox County Area Partnership created the Southside Occupancy Assistance Program to increase business occupancy on Galesburg’s south side by either providing a rent subsidy or a downpayment for businesses reusing vacant spaces, to those who qualify by completing an application with supporting documents. The Minority Business Collateral Assistance Program, also created by the city of Galesburg  and Knox County Area Partnership, is designed to facilitate minority-owned, women-owned and businesses owned by a person with a disability seeking financing for their start-up business, and to assist in certain situations where there is insufficient collateral to enable financing that otherwise might not be available to a small business. This program also requires a completed application and supporting documents. I think these are good uses of some of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money the city has received, and I wish the successful applicants well in developing their businesses. I applaud the Urban Agriculture venture. Encouraging the production of healthy produce within our neighborhoods is also an excellent  use of ARPA funds. — Laurie Muelder

More:Coffee shop, sports center among businesses seeking Galesburg minority grants

Charlie Gruner
Charlie Gruner

Grants seem both discriminatory and condescending

It seems both discriminatory and condescending. It could, therefore, be subject to legal challenges, adding to the City’s expenses and not accomplish any of its goals.

It seems to include only minorities and women. That’s discrimination, by definition.

It is condescending. It assumes that neither women nor minorities are capable of either starting or running a business without the help of some level of government, especially from rich, white liberal politicians who promise everything and deliver nothing.

What is meant by “urban agriculture?" I remember when there were Liberty Gardens in Chicago. Of course, they were for community members to grow their own food (usually on empty city lots). I suspect that the modern day version is something else, probably involving marijuana.

If the program were just oriented toward a geographic area without mention of race or gender and barring marijuana I might agree that it could help Galesburg move forward.  – Charlie Gruner

The Community Roundtable runs each Sunday and is made up of local writers. Community writers answer one question each week in 150 words or fewer. 

This article originally appeared on Galesburg Register-Mail: Are new city business grants moving Galesburg IL forward?