The director of Brookfield’s Department of Community and Economic Development is pitching a pilot program for 2017 to make no-interest loans available to business owners who wish to install new signs on their buildings.
Nicholas Greifer rolled out the proposal at a meeting of the village board’s Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee meeting on Oct. 24, and it received the support of the three members of that committee, President Kit Ketchmark and trustees Michelle Ryan and Michael Garvey.
The proposal will be put forth as a discussion item as administrators finalize the village’s 2017 budget. Greifer has suggested putting a $5,000 line item in the 2017 general operating budget for 2017, which should be enough to cover the village’s portion of costs for five to 10 loans.
“The low-interest loans would provide an economic incentive for existing businesses to invest in their signage,” Greifer said. “It’s a way for us to dip our toe in the water a bit and see if it works. If we like it, we can expand it further, perhaps to facades.”
Any business owner who would like to participate in the program would first meet with Community and Economic Development Department staff to discuss the planned signage improvement and submit a building permit application.
The program also intends to waive building permit fees for the new signs.
After that it would be up to the applicant to obtain a loan from a bank. Village Manager Keith Sbiral said the village has already pitched the plan to First National Bank of Brookfield, which has expressed interest in providing loans for the program.
“We’d establish a pre-qualified process through First National,” Sbiral said. “There’s not a lot of other corporate banks out there who want to do that kind of work.”
Once the loan is obtained, the village of Brookfield would reimburse the bank for the interest portion of the loan, so the bank would then issue a no-interest loan to the applicant.
The program would cap the interest subsidy at a maximum loan amount of $10,000 and up to 5 percent interest over a three-year term. For example, the maximum loan and interest rate means the village would be responsible for an interest subsidy of $789.
“We’re not creating a welfare program for signage,” Sbiral said. “We’re trying to incentivize action.”
While Greifer has proposed capping the general fund line item in the budget at $5,000, the village likely would not cap the amount for businesses within the village’s tax increment financing (TIF) districts.
The interest subsidies for businesses within the Ogden Avenue TIF and within the Eight Corners TIF, which the village board is slated to vote to create this month, would be paid out of TIF funds.
The pilot program would be for one year, after which officials will assess whether to make it a permanent program or expand it to include things like awnings, façade elements and windows.
“It’s a great opportunity to do something as a pilot,” said Trustee Michelle Ryan.
Greifer said that village staff will try to spread the word about the program to existing business owners.
“It’s going to require lots of face-to-face, one-on-one marketing,” he said.