POTSDAM - Mayor Steven Yurgartis said Monday the village of Potsdams Planning and Development Office has fully committed a $100,000 grant through the states Office of Community Renewals Small Cities CDBG program to assist local artists open for business.
Five local artists were selected to participate in an entrepreneurial training program provided by the St. Lawrence County Arts Council. The council helped to screen artists for participation in the project and provided classroom instruction through a required 10-part training program.
The artists were required to prepare a business plan as the culmination of that training program. The artists completing the training were then invited to apply for a Small Cities Micro-Enterprise grant to help pay for business startup in the village of Potsdam, with a requirement the artist provide up to 20 percent of the business start up costs in cash or in-kind equity.
The businesses assisted include Isaac Jude Pottery, 6 Raymond St.; Damon Drums, 5 1/2 Elderkin St.; Plant Pets Pottery, Old Snell Hall; Blue Frenzy Wearable Art, Old Snell Hall; and Heartfelt Greetings by Leigh, 51 Main St.
The goal of the project is to provide artists with business training and start-up capital to successfully open small studios and workshops that will help transform Potsdam into the center for the arts in Northern New York, Potsdam Planning and Development Director Fred Hanns said.
He noted the businesses earning the grants must agree to maintain their principal place of business in Potsdam and to the extent possible create employment for area residents.
Hilary Oak, outgoing director of the St. Lawrence County Arts Council, said the notion of creating a small business assistance program for local artists jelled during a meeting held with arts organization representatives and artists during the initial planning sessions for the North Country Regional Economic Development Councils strategic plan.
We wanted to ensure that the north country regions art community had a seat at the table and played a role in the formulation of an economic revitalization strategy, Ms. Oak said.
A prominent local artist suggested that many artists in Northern New York have a difficult time with business startup because many lacked business acumen and couldnt demonstrate that they had sufficient collateral to secure commercial credit. We concluded that we needed to develop a pilot program to address the need in a way that could be replicated in communities across the region, she added.
The village applied for funding during the first Consolidated Funding Round advanced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the North Country Regional Economic Development Council.
Village officials said they had expected it would take two years to fully expend the grant funds and were surprised when it took less than a year.
Mr. Yurgartis said Planning and Development Office officials and Arts Council representatives will be reviewing their experience with the Arts Micro-Enterprise Project and making decisions about how to streamline the process and perhaps identifying additional funding sources for the initiative.
Our hope is that we will be able to continue to secure capital grants to help with a second round, and, of course, if anyone has a good idea about ways to build Potsdams economy were always willing to listen, he noted.