Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Bessemer DDA expands its Pop-Up Shop program


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Bessemer — Thursday’s meeting of the Downtown Development Authority in Bessemer resulted in some updates to the city’s popular Pop-Up Shop program.

Members voted to enact the following elements to the program:

—Persons starting a new business in town will be eligible to receive up to three months of free rent, followed by up to six-months of 50-50 assistance.

—Anyone receiving the assistance will be expected to report to the DDA every three months during the nine-month period.

—Anyone purchasing a building to start a new business will be eligible for the same financial benefits as someone who rents or leases.

The maximum benefit that any person can receive will be $3,500, and no payments will be made up front.

“The way we do it now, they have to pay the rent up front, so they have a little skin in the game, and then we reimburse them,” said member Dave Osier.

In addition, eligibility to receive the benefits will be restricted to one time only. “Once is it,” stressed member Cheryl Leskoviansky.

The purpose of asking program beneficiaries to report to the DDA throughout the nine-month start-up period is, in the words of Mayor Pro Tempore Terry Kryshak, so that DDA members can “try to help mentor them.”

The DDA website invites consideration of any new business, or any home-based business that is aiming to expand. Chain operations do not qualify, and all businesses must be cleared by the DDA.

“We can deny anything that doesn’t seem right,” said board member Dan Whitburn during the meeting.

Examples of Bessemer businesses that have benefited from the Pop-Up program are Platinum Dance Studio, Harju Repair, and 906 Web Studio.

DDA Chair Dustin Dustin Filippini also suggested exploring pop-up events, during which the program could be explained to interested parties. One possibility discussed was a Christmas bazaar.

The Pop-Up Shop program already also includes additional funds such as matching funds for building improvements, as well as support from the Small Business Development Center and the Michigan State University Extension Office.

In other news, members discussed possible means by which to establish high-speed internet service downtown.

City Manager Charly Loper said that some small towns opt to use “small-scale” wireless options that can be attached to existing poles and added that the Planning Commission is now working on a related ordinance.

Loper said that appropriate rulings can help to prevent such operations from becoming “kind of an eyesore.”

“I think wired is the best option,” said Filippini, who explained that wireless capacity never approaches the same bandwidth.

Loper said that the city could lay its own fiber internet or else continue seeking internet providers.

Whitburn said part of the challenge is that technology changes so fast that by the time a plan is established, there is no guarantee that it will remain an attractive option for the public. He also warned that cost of use will be a central issue for local residents.

Although no formal action was taken, several members recommended continuing to seek a viable provider, and Loper said she will resume working toward a solution.

Whatever results, member Kara Bjorkquist said that having the high-speed service will have the added advantage of attracting new business.

DDA members also:

—Learned from Loper that plans are proceeding to convert the existing DDA meeting room, which is on the lower floor of the Bessemer City Hall, to a combination meeting room and “co-working space” that will include three work cubicles and a desk.

—Learned from Filippini that a third video aimed at marketing the city will be released online soon, and that a fourth and final video will be filmed soon.

—Voted to approve the 2020 meeting schedule.

The next regular meeting of the DDA will be on Feb. 13 at 4 p.m. in the downstairs DDA room of the Bessemer City Hall. The public is welcome.