McCook Growth Fund Spurs Local Business Enhancements

AREA News, News, Photo Feature - 03.31.16

MCCOOK – Eating Sehnert’s famous peanut-butter donuts or taking in a concert in the historic Fox Theatre are unique experiences that can only be found in one town – McCook.

These locally and community-owned amenities give McCook an identity that is different from any other town. They also attract shoppers in ways that franchise stores can’t duplicate.

It’s these types of businesses that the McCook Economic Development Corporation helped with its recent Façade Improvement Grant Program.

The program provided up to $5,000 matching grants that encouraged 10 businesses or organizations to spruce up their store fronts, making McCook more inviting to both local and out-of-town shoppers and preserving the history of the community. The grant money was awarded through the McCook Growth Fund, which is supported through a portion of the city’s sales tax fund.

The MEDC hopes to offer these types of incentives again through continued sales tax funding. McCook voters will decide on May 10 whether to continue allocating a portion of the city’s sales tax to economic development projects like the façade grant program.

The grant program was open to all businesses in the community, but priority was given to downtown businesses to attract investment to that area, preserve its historical qualities and enhance the overall shopping experience.

Grantees were required to match their grant awards dollar for dollar.

Matt Sehnert, owner of Sehnert’s Bakery and Bieroc Café at 310 and 312 Norris Ave., said he wanted to preserve the historical look of his business’ exterior at 310 Norris, which also once housed McCook’s original post office. He was also concerned about the safety hazards of the building’s non-tempered glass windows. The grant opportunity last fall was just what he needed to prompt his decision move forward with updates.

“Making capital improvements that don’t directly add to the bottom line are difficult for small businesses,” Sehnert said. “We understand it’s a need, but it’s difficult to find those funds. The grant program really was the final push that helped me commit to doing this plan. It’s almost like we got a sale on doing this renovation. That’s what sales do, is they push you over the edge.”

Now that the repairs are done, Sehnert said it looks fantastic and it’s safe.

“The business was looking pretty shabby and run down and this was a whole new facelift,” he said. His customers also have thanked him for preserving the original look of the building.

Sehnert said maintaining a clean exterior look is important to the community’s growth.

“It just shows McCook as progressive,” he said. “Instead of letting main street get run down, we are preserving it and improving the downtown area.”

Sports ShoppeeBob Elder, who has owned The Sports Shoppe since 1978, agreed. And, he said updates are good for business.

“I think that’s it’s important to keep your building updated, your business moving forward,” Elder said. “You have to keep updating yourself or you get stagnant.”

Elder received a MEDC facade grant that he used to remodel the store’s entrance and to install a new awning and sign, new insulated windows and a new door.

He said he had been thinking about these changes for a while, and the grant also spurred him to take action.

And, he said the changes have been good for business.

“We’ve had nothing but good comments and more people come in because of it,” Elder said. “We still have people walking up to our door and taking a second look.”

Façade improvement grants were awarded to the following: KDS Building, McCook Art Guild, Fox Theatre, Nielson Chiropractic, The Sports Shoppe, Ambience Counseling, Renalle’s Classic Hair Design & Spa, Jay & Kim Schilling, Gary Parks, Sehnert’s Bakery and Bieroc Café.

The grant program is currently not accepting new applications until future funding can be secured.

For more information about the grant program or other MEDC programs, please visit the MEDC web site at www.mccookne.org or call the MEDC at (308) 345-1200. The mission of the MEDC is to facilitate the formation, retention, attraction and expansion of businesses in McCook and the surrounding area.