Several Old Towne Tehachapi businesses will soon benefit from six RENEWBIZ grants awarded to owners of buildings and shopping centers.
More than $41,800 in grant funding has been awarded through the efforts of Kern County Second District Supervisor Zack Scrivner with approval by the Kern County Board of Supervisors and assistance from county planning.
“Since creating the program in 2013, we have awarded nearly $1.3 million in grants to east Kern businesses,” Scrivner said in a news release. “The latest round of 2019 grants continues to build on our commitment to help restore and revitalize the business areas of east Kern so that they, and the surrounding communities, may further grow and prosper.”
Building owners applied for grant funding with business tenants — Carlos’ Donuts, Air Tight Heating & Air, Trailhead Insurance Services, Century Glass, Stylz Salon, the Grooming Spot, Kern Regional Center, Sim Sanitation, Inc. and others — benefiting from the money. These businesses are located at the shopping centers along West Valley Boulevard and Santa Barbara Boulevard.
“It really helps the businesses improve the look of area,” said Eddie Kenneth Caskey, owner of the buildings on West Valley Boulevard. He added, “I would encourage other businesses to apply if they have the grant again.” Caskey said the funds will help repave the parking lots in front of tenants' businesses.
Lydia Chaney, owner of South Street Digital, said the grant will pay to paint an entire building, add awning to the front of a tenants’ entrance and potentially attract new customers.
The funding will help improve the look of businesses. Eligible projects include signs, painting, landscaping, awnings, fencing, windows, facade improvements, land acquisition, and infrastructure improvements, according to the grant application handbook.
Each business can apply for multiple grants up to a maximum of $10,000.
The grant stands for Renewable Energy Neighborhood Enhancement Wind and Solar Business Investment Zone and this year's round is awarding $380,000 to businesses in east Kern communities including Mojave, Boron and Rosamond for a total of 46 grants. Businesses are required to match 10 percent of the grant awarded.
Scrivner said in an interview that the idea to grow the economy in Old Towne Tehachapi is part of a series of vision plans, not only for this area, but also for other unincorporated areas.
“There are no state or federal grant programs for unincorporated business areas like there are for cities. With the wind and solar projects being built in my district, during the recession, jobs were created for locals and it also brought new people to the area. I saw this as an opportunity to create our own economic development program,” Scrivner said in an email.
Community stakeholders, leaders and others helped define improvements for Old Towne Tehachapi in 2014. Some of the top goals to be implemented in the next 25 to 50 years included landscaping, adding sidewalks, basic street improvements, lighting, parks and open spaces.
“The program is intended to assist qualified organizations with projects designed to redevelop or improve commercial or industrial districts within east Kern County thereby increasing the economic benefit to Kern County,” according to the vision plan.
Funding for the RENEWBIZ grant comes from property tax revenue, when property tax evaluated appraisal values rise in the area over the tax baseline that is established each year.
Scrivner said in an email, "In 2012, I brought a plan to the Board of Supervisors establishing the boundary for the RENEWBIZ program and the tax increment area of growth, which provides the funding stream for the program.”
More than $300,000 each year goes toward helping businesses, with other funding going toward infrastructure.
This has already been the case in Mojave and Rosamond for street improvements.
“The percentage of increment growth is what goes into the total fund for the RENEWBIZ program. We determine what portion we designate for grants for businesses and nonprofits. The remaining funds we let accumulate for a major infrastructure project that we identify in the future,” Scrivner said in an interview.