By Melinda Munson
Skagway Development Corporation’s (SDC) Programs Manager, Kaitlyn Jared, submitted correspondence to the borough assembly dated June 21, asking for a letter of support to enable the non-profit to apply for a $1 million grant. She never heard back.
“I would have hoped I would have gotten the courtesy of a letter or some kind of response,” Jared said. “They don’t let a White Pass letter go unanswered.”
The request, included in the July 1 assembly packet, would have enabled SDC to apply for the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Community Navigator Pilot Grant program, which closed its application process July 23.
According to the SBA, the “focus of the program is to reach and support underserved and small businesses, including micro and rural businesses, with an emphasis on those owned by women, veterans and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.”
The program requires that the “hub” (which would have been SDC and its sister organization, Community Development Services, had they been approved) have five community programs under its umbrella. Program funds must be used for financial and technical assistance, such as hiring a marketing firm.
“Silence is its own answer sometimes,” said Mayor Andrew Cremata, when asked why the assembly didn’t respond to SDC’s request. “Grants always look great, but sometimes they’re not.”
Jared said neither the mayor nor assembly members approached her to ask questions about the program.
According to Jared, other than writing the letter of support, the municipality would have had no responsibility in the grant process.
“Granted there’s a lot going on right now,” Jared said. “Any assistance and support for businesses that are struggling should be a priority right now.
“We all need to work collaboratively to give Skagway the best shot.”
“I would say it got missed,” said Assemblymember Jay Burnham, Finance Chair. He surmised that the municipality would write a letter of support for any grant that wasn’t “opium or seal clubbing.”
Jared is currently working on another project, a community funding grant for a Creator Space Feasibility Study. It has been before the Finance Committee three times, and tabled three times.
The idea behind a creator space is to combine rental offices and apartments, provide a place for carpentry, diesel, welding and other industry skills and give opportunities for professional and artistic development. The feasibility study would also develop a business plan. See the SDC’s proposal above.
“…The committee was hesitant to forward a recommendation because the grant leaned heavily towards committing the old fire hall to the creator space,” said Vice-Mayor Orion Hanson, finance member.
“Basically, we’d strongly consider supporting the grant proposal, but don’t want to obligate the city to fixing a building that is likely a tear-down.”
Hanson said they’re waiting for another proposal from Jared minus the fire hall.
Jared said one of the goals of the feasibility study is to find the best creative space, which doesn’t necessarily have to be the old fire hall.
SDC requested $22,618 from the municipality’s community funding program with an additional $64,375 coming from a federal grant.