Thursday, May 17, 2012

Crowdfund act

The JOBS Act
Some of you may have heard about the JOBS (Jumpstart Our Business Startups)  Act that President Obama signed in April.  The JOBS Act has received bipartisan support across the board on its way to Obama’s desk, as it is expected to provide entrepreneurs with quicker access to capital to grow their businesses, and create jobs. It certainly does bring significant change to the investment process, and could bring a new level of transparency — if not public participation — to funding small businesses. For the country at large, the passage of this bill is all about job creation, and on that level, is being celebrated.

One portion of the legislation is the CROWDFUND ACT which deals with crowdfunding investment (aka equity-based crowdfunding) for businesses.  It is located in Title III of this legislation, allows business startups to seek up to $1 Million per year from small investors via crowdfunding online portals.  It makes its easier for startups to raise small amounts of money from large pools of investors. The technique has become more mainstream with the advent of sites like Kiva, Kickstarter and IndieGogo. 

Investors will be able to invest from $2,000 or up to ten percent of their net worth in crowdfunding offers made under the JOBS Act.  Up until now, SEC regulations (Securities Act-1933 and Securities Exchange Act-1934) had largely prevented this.  Legalizing crowdfunding in startups by non-accredited investors means that now even your mom can invest in your startup!  To learn more about Crowdfunding, heres a link to a free downloadable book written by Scott Steinberg "The Crowdfunding Bible,"

Various criticisms of the JOBS Act include:  “Gutting regulations designed to safeguard investors”; “legalizing boiler room operations”; relieving “businesses that are preparing to go public from some of the most important auditing regulations that Congress passed after the Enron debacle”; and “a terrible package of bills that would undo essential investor protections, reduce market transparency and distort the efficient allocation of capital”.

The Barefoot Accountant said, "I confess that I am at a total loss in understanding how exempting companies from audited financial statements for up to five years is good for investment?  Would you be more likely to invest in startup companies, no less, without assurance that their numbers were not works of fiction?  Hello?"

For more critical scrutiny of the JOBS Act, please see:  JOBS Act: Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act. Legalizing Fraud in the Stock Market.

The following link to the National Crowdfunding Association gives fairly detailed information on the legislation at this link,  Decide for loosing legislation designed to safeguard investors a prudent way to assist entreperneurs in gaining access to capital?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Per acre development

One of the best articles I’ve read in the last year comes from Emily Badger, who writes about Asheville, NC (population 83,393, FY 2012 budget $132 million) and a downtown renaissance led by a local real estate developer. The story in discusses in depth how a metric like “Per-Acre Value” can drive municipalities towards new revenue.

 The concept basically shows that downtown Per Acre Value vastly outstrips the public wealth contributed by low-density subdivisions or malls. Additionally, downtown acreage costs significantly less to maintain in terms of public services and infrastructure.
In short, underutilized downtown buildings need to be developed. Here’s why. In Asheville, a downtown six-story building sitting on 1/5 of an acre yields $634,000 in tax revenue per acre once it was redeveloped. The Super Walmart on 34 acres of land yields $6,500 per acre in property taxes. Almost a 100x difference. Ultimately, the Per Acre model can lead to new revenue without property tax increases.

Here's the article:
Check it out!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Main Street Building coming back online!

Vail Stewart Rumley of the Washington Daily News did a nice write up on the City of Washington's $200,000 grant award from the NC Department Commerce's Main Street Solutions Fund (MSSF). Currently in its 3rd funding cycle and financially supported by the NC General Assembly, MSSF offers grant awards to NC Main Street Communities to engage in redevelopment efforts in their urban cores. The Cedar Point project, as proposed, will bring ten new jobs, leverage $1.3M in private investment and ultimately create a destination restaurant for the charming waterfront community.

Her article, originally published in the Washington Daily News, can be found here

NC smART Initative

Vollis Simpson, Wilson, NC. Whirligig master
Do you know what I love? I love that North Carolina's leadership recognizes the value of art and culture to the extent they are willing to fund an initiative to support arts driven economic development efforts on the local level.

The North Carolina Arts Council created the online SmART Initiative Resource Center which includes a, excuse my spanish, cachimbón of arts driven economic development resource links and downloads. These materials include overviews of creative placemaking and public art projects and programs; examples of arts and cultural assessment inventories; examples of potential funding sources; details on tax incentives; and models for cultural district programs.

Thank you, North Carolina.

Arts and cultural districts

By Rebecca Chan | From Main Street Story of the Week March 21, 2012 |
In Main Streets across the nation, the creative arts trend is manifesting itself in the form of designated, planned arts districts, posing new challenges for community leaders, real estate developers, and Main Street. Fortunately, Main Street has an advantage. In a departure from more traditional economic development models in which workers are drawn to an area by jobs, footloose and often self-employed artists and other creative-minded workers are more likely to choose their homes based on quality of life and livability factors—features inherent to historic main streets and downtown areas. Even better news—under the right conditions, the Main Street Four-Point Approach® can provide a complementary planning framework for an arts district, infusing new life, cultural vibrancy, and capital into rural and urban Main Streets alike.

While an arts district might seem like an easy option, it’s not a good fit for every Main Street community. Much like conducting a market analysis, for example, deciding to proceed with an arts district requires an honest evaluation of a community’s resources, analysis of the potential effects on residents, commitment by dedicated leadership as well as the community at large, and a huge amount of time and patience to ensure success

Arts Districts and the Main Street Four Point Approach®

Amy Webb, currently with the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Western Field Services and previously the program director for the National Trust’s Heritage Tourism Program, feels that the Main Street methodology works well with arts and entertainment districts because both the revitalization strategy and district niche creation rely on building on your assets. But, she cautions, you must have something to work with because it is really hard to start from scratch.
“It’s a whole lot easier for a community with an existing arts culture, scene, or businesses to turn those assets into something more formal,” says Webb. “You need that initial organic component.”
Let’s take a look at arts districts in a couple of Main Street communities through the lens of each of the Four Points.

DESIGN: Paducah Renaissance Alliance/Paducah, Kentucky |Arts/Artisan District 

SOTW_3-21-12_A&E_PaducahWhile many people automatically think about Main Street’s physical appearance when it comes to the Main Street’s design component, what they often forget about are the policies and codes that shape the built environment. In Paducah, Kentucky, a town well known in the world of arts-based revitalization for its Artist Relocation Program and business recruitment strategies, a less widely known fact is that design also plays a huge role in the Main Street district’s success as an arts community.
In Paducah, offering purchasing and design services, as well as expanding zoning guidelines, were all instrumental in the Paducah Renaissance Alliance’s ability to attract and retain an artist community. Paducah’s Artist Relocation Incentive Program, which has become something of a national model for arts-based economic development, permits the sale of properties for a little as $1 to applicants with qualifying proposals. The program also offers reimbursements of up to $2,500 for architectural or other professional services associated with approved proposals.
The Artist Relocation Program, which began in March 2000, was designed to lure artists to Paducah and establish the city as an artist enclave. Through the program, the City of Paducah offered artists the aforementioned economic incentives which, combined with generous financing from the Paducah Bank, a community partner, drew enough artists to cultivate a flourishing artistic community over the past decade. To date, artists and residents have invested more than $30 million in the arts district.
The other facet of the available relocation incentives, of course, was the availability of zoning that could accommodate and easily facilitate proposed new uses for the LowerTown Arts District. To ensure that artists could rehab and convert buildings in the area targeted by the Artist Relocation Program, the LowerTown Arts District has been zoned for live/work space. This zoning effectively enables residents, artists, and non-artists alike to create mixed-use space consisting of galleries, studios, restaurants, cafés, and living space under one roof.

PROMOTION: Old Town Lansing/Lansing, Michigan | Creative Production District

SOTW_3-21-12_A&E_OldLansingIt goes without saying that the promotion component of Main Street works particularly well with an arts agenda by allowing a district to communicate its unique characteristics, business establishments, and activities to people in the community and surrounding region. Showcasing this relationship is Old Town Lansing, a Main Street community that boasts the highest concentration of arts and creative service businesses in the state of Michigan. Old Town Lansing also won a 2011 Great American Main Street Award.
It’s no secret that Old Town Lansing’s arts-based events have allowed this Main Street community to promote itself as the arts and entertainment district of Lansing. In fact, one of the community’s most popular events, the Old Town ScrapFest, highlights the way the district was able to take an area once perceived as a community eyesore and rebrand it, stimulating a sense of community pride and drawing in tourists through an arts-based event.
The annual Old Town ScrapFest gives teams, usually composed of local businesses or art organizations, an hour to collect scraps from a scrap yard outside of town. After their initial haul, the teams are given two weeks to create sculptures out of the scraps they have collected. The sculptures are put on public display and then auctioned at a closely linked event, the Festival of the Moon and Sun. Proceeds are donated to the Old Town Commercial Association to further community economic development in Old Town Lansing.
Old Town Scrapfest has become a defining event for Old Town Lansing, creating a positive image for the community and increased tourist and consumer interest in the district. As a result of these promotional efforts, Old Town’s festivals, some of which draw a regional, if not national crowd, have a large economic impact on the neighborhood as well. According to Brittney Hoszkiw, former executive director of Old Town Lansing, several developers and business owners were first introduced to Old Town Lansing’s arts district through one of its festivals.
The draw? A genuine arts experience. “People will travel hundreds of miles for a feeling of authenticity. They’re looking for a chance to be engaged,” says Hoszkiw. “In Old Town Lansing, or any other Main Street, is all about experience... it’s about empowerment and exclusivity…you can’t manufacture that.”

ECONOMIC RESTRUCTURING: Economic Restructuring: Downtown Frederick Partnership/Frederick, Maryland | Neighborhood Arts District

SOTW_3-21-12_A&E_FrederickAs most Main Street aficionados know, one of the primary challenges for an economic restructuring committee is finding the optimal combination of neighborhood uses that builds on local assets and community preferences and strengthens a community’s identity. In Frederick, Maryland, the Downtown Frederick Partnership has managed to augment its economic restructuring efforts by encouraging renovation of historic properties through state-level policy and incentive programs. The result has been a very welcoming environment for artists and arts enterprises.
The economic restructuring committee has implemented a business retention program, holds property owner outreach events, and has launched a “Get It Downtown” campaign focusing on local businesses. The Frederick Downtown Partnership also co-manages a Maryland Arts and Entertainment District, helping to market and publicize the tax incentives associated with this program. Demonstrating the complementary aspects of historic downtowns and planned arts districts, a portion of Frederick is also a designated historic district, adding another layer of potential tax credits for developers interested in renovating historic properties, which can then be marketed to artists or artistic enterprises.
According to Kara Norman, executive director of the Downtown Frederick Partnership, while the credits aren’t enough to persuade an artist to move to Frederick, they do provide an added incentive for artists who are already residents of the community. Additionally, some artists and savvy developers have taken advantage of either the Arts and Entertainment District tax incentives or the Maryland State Historic Tax Credits, resulting in increased renovations in Frederick.
“In general, developers in Frederick are trying to renovate buildings to make them attractive to tenants,” says Norman, “Because most artists and artistic organizations rent their space, they are able to take advantage of this development in Frederick.”

ORGANIZATION: Eureka Springs Downtown Network/Eureka Springs, Arkansas | Neighborhood Arts District

SOTW_3-21-12_A&E_EurekaSpringsOrganization in the Main Street Four-Point Approach is about building partnerships and establishing consensus among various groups and stakeholders in a Main Street community. As one of the most well-known arts communities in Arkansas, but a relatively new Main Street community (designated in 2007), the Eureka Springs Downtown Network has managed to use its organizational prowess to get long-time resident artists and the Eureka Springs community as a whole to work toward the common goal of building a vibrant neighborhood business district.
Eureka Springs has had a flourishing artist community since the 1950s; today it features more than 20 galleries, theaters, the Eureka Springs School of Art, and other venues that complement businesses in the downtown commercial district. In this town, artists are business people, homeowners, and valuable community members.
The key to introducing Main Street and organizing the Eureka Springs community has actually been to adopt a relatively hands-off approach. According to Jacqueline Wolven, executive director of the Eureka Springs Downtown Network, the key to consensus building has been to position Main Street as a community resource that offers technical help and supplemental promotion to local artists. “What I have found is most successful is when I offer my support, either technical or marketing,” says Wolven, “and if they don’t take me up on it, that’s okay. But I don’t push myself— I’m there as a resource.”
This approach has helped garner support from within the artist community as well as the larger Eureka Springs Main Street network. “We are an arts district, but we don’t take advantage of our artists. We respect that they are working individuals,” says Wolven. “We see artists as serious business people. And I think that helps them too, because it encourages them to see themselves as important to the town.”


During a time when the arts are often the first budget item to be cut, the growth of successful arts districts in Main Street communities demonstrates that investing in creative and artistic ventures offers an approach to community revitalization that complements the Main Street Four-Point Approach®. Careful market research, asset mapping, speaking with community members, and the other tools used to launch a Main Street program will help your community decide if it is ready and able to start an arts district. An important thing to remember: even if a formal arts district is not an appropriate niche market for your Main Street, there will most likely be opportunities to infuse art into your district through festivals and special events.
As the four spotlighted communities have demonstrated, creating a successful arts district depends on a “perfect storm” of policies and resources to ensure long-term, sustainable success. Given the right conditions, however, Main Street and arts districts can join forces to create an exciting, engaging visitor experience and stronger community ties for both rural and urban Main Streets.

Interested in learning more about the arts? Learn everything you need to know at the National Main Streets Conference in Baltimore, April 1-4, 2012

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Economic development: CDBG no funds for us

Mike Voss of the The Washington Daily News reports:

North Carolina, Beaufort County and its municipalities won’t be receiving any of the $400 million in emergency aid to help communities in eight states recover from presidentially declared natural disasters in 2011.
Although many counties, cities and towns in eastern North Carolina suffered severely from Hurricane Irene, they have been denied access to those Community Development Block Grant funds. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s website notes “these grants will support long-term disaster recovery efforts in areas with the greatest extent of ‘unmet need.’”

The CDBG funds supplement other forms of disaster assistance, according to the HUD website.
The following states will receive the emergency aid (amounts are rounded off): New York, $93.2 million; North Dakota, $79.3 million; Alabama, $55.5 million; Missouri, $53.9 million; Pennsylvania, $49.2 million; Texas, $31.3 million; Vermont, $21.6 million; New Jersey, $15.6 million.

“These funds are intended to confront unmet housing, business and infrastructure needs beyond those addressed by other forms of public and private assistance,” according to the HUD website. “Using a combination of federal data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Small Business Administration (SBA), HUD identified those states and local communities most impacted and requiring the greatest assistance to recover due to the devastating tornadoes in the Southeast and Missouri; the remnants of Hurricanes Irene and Lee in the Northeast and New England; severe flooding in parts of North Dakota; and destructive wildfires in Texas.”
John Pack, Beaufort County’s emergency-management director, said HUD’s decision would not deter him from seeking other forms of aid for county resident affected by Hurricane Irene.
“We have to determine where are we going to find grant funds to help these people,” Pack said.
In the past five years since he’s been the county’s emergency-management director, Pack said such CDBG funds have “helped a lot of people.”

“It’s been a tool we’ve used in the past. … It’s a tool we no longer have in our toolbox,” Pack said.
In the past, such funding has been used to help elevate houses in flood-prone areas, he said. Such funding would be useful in helping elevate houses (some owned by people who have never been affected by hurricanes or other natural disaster before) damaged by Hurricane Irene, Pack said.

“That money could have been used to help elevate those structures,” Pack said.
Reed Whitesell, a planner with Holland Consulting Planners, said it’s puzzling that HUD is not providing supplemental disaster-recovery aid to North Carolina in the wake of Hurricane Irene when it did so after hurricanes Fran, Floyd and others in recent years.

“Having spent several months driving around impacted areas of Craven/Beaufort/Pamlico/Hyde County, it is very hard for me to comprehend that HUD has deigned that N.C. is not to receive supplemental assistance for Irene,” Whitesell wrote in an email to Valerie D. Moore, a senior research and innovation analyst with the N.C. Division of Community Investment and Assistance. “One might assume that HUD has chosen to rebuild the resort areas of rural Vermont. By copy of this e-mail, I am asking our clients to contact their elected representatives to obtain an accounting for this decision.”

Whitesell said he doesn’t understand how North Carolina could be denied a share of the $400 million, considering the damage it suffered as a result of Hurricane Irene.
In an email reply to Whitesell, Moore said the Division of Community Investment and Assistance, a division of the N.C. Department of Commerce, “is exploring alternatives including allowing communities to repurpose existing grants, apply for programs under the current CDBG cycle, and redirecting CDBG funds to share with the impacted communities. CI is also coordinating efforts with other state agencies including Emergency Management.”

Monday, February 27, 2012

Historic Preservation: Awards

The City of Washington, in recognition of Historic Preservation Month, is seeking nominations from the public for the Rena K. Terrell Award. The award is a public-trust honor designed to celebrate those active in historic preservation. Terrell, the award’s namesake, was one of the area’s most-active historic preservation promoters. She was a founding member of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission, a member of the Historic Preservation Foundation of North Carolina, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the city’s official representative on the Board of Directors of the Historic Albemarle Tour.

The city commission’s members believe it is most appropriate that these awards are made in Terrell’s memory since she was devoted to preserving the area’s historic resources and assets. Awards will be presented to one commercial property, one residential property and one “Good Neighbor” project in the historic district. Suggested criteria for nominating a property include the rehabilitation or restoration of the property, the ongoing maintenance efforts on the property and the compatibility of a new construction addition to the property.

An award also will be presented to a nominee chosen as a “Good Neighbor.” The criteria for this award include neighborhood-compatible restoration or construction and maintenance efforts completed with sensitivity to the other residents within the immediate area.
The nominees’ projects should be substantially completed in order to be considered.

Historic Preservation Month is an opportunity for local communities across the nation to recognize and celebrate the importance of their historic districts to the local economy through tourism and real-estate transfers, as well as the contribution historic districts make to the quality of life in a town.

Nominations are open until April 16, and they may be sent to the City of Washington’s Planning and Development Department (to the attention of Jessica Selby by email to or calling 252-975-9838).
A recipient will be announced each week in May, with the final week featuring a candlelight walking tour in the historic district beginning at 7 p.m. May 3. Details will be announced in May. The tour and presentation of the Rena K. Terrell Awards are unique ways the city is helping Beaufort County celebrate its 300th anniversary.

Update: ARRA lighting retrofit project

A simple project designed and implemented by the City of Washington, in conjunction with the Energy Division of North Carolina Department of Commerce, has resulted in dramatic energy savings and will assist with job creation at a city-owned manufacturing facility occupied by Impressions Marketing Group, LLC.

In 2009, Impressions Marketing Group, which has leased the city-owned facility since 2001, entered into lease renewal negotiations with the city. As part of the negotiations, company executives encouraged the city to improve the building, which once housed a Hamilton Beach plant.

In 2010, after several months of negotiations, and with the help of a $259,979 grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s Energy Efficiency in Government Buildings program, the group executed a five-year lease with an option for renewal. Mayor Archie Jennings said, “The grant award simultaneously targets the relationship between economic development and environmental sustainability, nourishes a unique public-private partnership and sustains an imperative local employer, key project goals.”

The lighting retrofit and heating improvement project combined to achieve an estimated $108,220 in energy savings across 1,400 light fixtures and 400,000 square feet of building. The International Energy Agency estimates that similar energy-efficiency initiatives in buildings, industrial processes and transportation could reduce the world’s energy needs by a third in 2050. There are more than 32,000 such manufacturing facilities in the United States alone.
The lighting improvements will generate an estimated energy-impact savings of 736-megawatt hours annually, enough to power 64 homes for one month. The gas-heating improvements will save an estimated 40,000 therms annually, enough to power 57 homes for a month. Impressions’ early energy-savings data, coupled with the slow-but-steady upswing in its business, will allow it to increase its employment base by an estimated 16.48 percent by 2012 (it is currently hiring).

These numbers, representing job creation and energy savings, are an example of community economic development, action taken locally by a municipality to provide economic opportunities to improve working conditions in a sustainable way. The City of Washington’s efficiency project demonstrates a healthy public-private partnership benefiting the community, the environment and the local economy, a triple bottom line benefit.
Impressions is a high-quality, store-fixture supplier. Locally, it produces premium fixtures and décor graphics for well-known retailers. It employs 136 people.

For more information about its current employment opportunities, contact 252-975-0444.

Small Business Entrepreneurial Assistance GRANT

Grant funding may be available to assist Washington business owners expand their businesses.
The Small Business and Entrepreneurial Assistance grant program, sponsored by Community Investment and Assistance Division of the North Carolina Department of Commerce, is designed to assist local governments that are in the process of developing a coordinated effort to support and grow their communities’ existing small businesses. These grants are expected to help create and retain jobs within the state’s most economically distressed communities. The purposes of SBEA grants are to provide funding to local governments to jumpstart growth of existing businesses, create new jobs, retain existing jobs and to develop plans for creating an entrepreneurial environment in the community.
Each business must:
  • be located in the City of Washington;
  • employ a minimum of one person and less than 100 people;
  • be operating for a minimum of two years. Program was design specifically for existing businesses;
  • plan to expand by increasing the number full-time employees (defined as 1,600 hours) over the next two years;
  • 70 percent of all jobs created must go toward creating or retaining jobs for low- to moderate-income persons;
  • businesses previously located outside of the local government boundaries (another town, county, state and the like) are not eligible to participate.
The City of Washington, in an effort to support entrepreneurial activity, is identifying small businesses ready to hire additional full-time people but in need of funding to make this possible. The minimum grant award is $150,000. The maximum grant award is $250,000 (or $25,000 per job).
Examples of activities that may be eligible under this program include:
  • infrastructure improvements (water, sewer, roads);
  • purchase of land;
  • construction of a building or other improvements;
  • renovation of an existing building to accommodate the business;
  • construction of tenant improvements/finishes;
  • leasing space in or purchasing an existing building;
  • purchasing capital equipment;
  • providing job training that can be linked to specific jobs at a specific firm.
Examples of ineligible activities include:
  • revolving loan funds;
  • incubator projects for start-up businesses;
  • job training that cannot be linked to a specific job at a specific firm.
In order to be eligible for funding, businesses must submit the following:
  • business plan, two years minimum;
  • project summary; intended use of funds and explanation;
  • financial statements, covering the most recent two full years and projections for the next two years.
Company financial information cannot be held confidential or returned unless specific documentation is provided by the firm to support the “trade secret” status as defined in NC G.S. 66-152(2) and NC G.S. 132-1.2.
In addition, each business must:
  • execute a legally binding commitment with the City of Washington/N.C. Department of Commerce guaranteeing job creation goals are met;
  • execute a limited waiver of confidentiality for unemployment, tax and wage records (authorizes disclosure of certain information contained in the company’s quarterly unemployment insurance tax records filed with the North Carolina Division of Employment Security);
  • execute a private company commitment form, guaranteeing that quarterly reports will be submitted and that the company agrees to either screen all applications and hires for the required employee statistical information and the required documentation or to allow DES to perform these functions on its behalf;
  • after grant funds are awarded, companies will be required to perform an environmental review as part of the release of conditions process after the grant agreement and funding approval have been issued.
Businesses interested in learning more about the program should contact the City of Washington’s Planning and Development Department no later than March 5 at 252-975-9383 and speak with Bianca Shoneman or send email to