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Economic Development, Community Betterment grants continue to have impact in Cedar Falls

CEDAR FALLS – The city’s economic development grants are awarded to different nonprofits every year.

But it’s typically the same three recipients, Grow Cedar Valley, Community Main Street and the College Hill Partnership, according to Economic Development Coordinator Shane Graham.

With the Dec. 10 deadline looming for nonprofits to submit economic development grant applications for fiscal year 2023, Graham pointed out in a recent interview that perhaps the more interesting story is the “more diverse pool” of some 20 applications submitted to the Cedar Falls Tourism & Visitors Bureau for its annual round of community betterment grants.

Those applications, which had an Oct. 29 deadline, are expected to be discussed next month at the Visitors and Tourism Board meeting.

The Economic Development Fund and Community Betterment programs are made possible through the hotel/motel tax every year, and the awarded amounts are included as part of the city’s 2023 fiscal year budget proposal.

The economic development grants have supported local programming, events and facility upkeep in the past, Graham said. According to the application, they are geared toward any project “significantly contributing to and/or promoting economic development, taxable valuation increases, and job creation activities in Cedar Falls.”

Community betterment grants are available to nonprofits or government agencies that want assistance with projects that “contribute to the betterment or positive image of the city,” according to its application description.

The applications will be discussed at the next board meeting Dec. 1, says Becky Wagner, a staff employee at the Cedar Falls Tourism & Visitors Bureau.

Wagner said organizations like the Cedar Falls Historical Society, North Cedar Neighborhood Association (NCNA), Robert J. Hibbs VFW Post 3896, Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony, and the Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley have been known to apply.

050416-jfo-whiskey-road-exterior

Whiskey Road in Cedar Falls is a former winner of the Restaurant of the Year award by the tourism bureaus in Waterloo and Cedar Falls.

In the past, the historical society received funding for a new sign at the Victorian Home, and a soon-to-released introductory video for the Ice House Museum, according to Executive Director Carrie Eilderts.

This year, it applied for funding to repair the roof at the Behrens-Rapp Visitor’s Information Center.

“We appreciate the support the grants provide our local attractions, and how they help to create a welcoming environment for the visitors of Cedar Falls,” Eilderts said.

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The NCNA has received funding to help complete a trio of projects, according to Sue Beach, who leads the organization’s public relations efforts.

Just a short walk from the North Cedar Elementary School is a bird sanctuary where the NCNA used the funds to construct an “outdoor auditorium.”

Along Center Street, the grant also supported the addition of banners to signify to those passing through that they are passing through a part of town, not the countryside, and should slow down.

In addition, the banners promote the area’s outdoor offerings and include images of fisherman, cyclists, runners and kayakers.

More recently, she said the NCNA received funding to bring about limestone signs to Center Street and Lone Tree Road.

“We are thankful because these projects bring attention to what Cedar Falls has to offer, and are projects that we’d been wanting to do for some time in North Cedar, which is one of the area’s best kept secrets,” said Beach.

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