While Montross’ revitalization projects have been quite successful, there still remain plenty of unoccupied and unused buildings. It was this lack of diversified businesses that resulted in a joint meeting between the town’s council and its planning commission on the last week of February, as the two groups decided to work out how to fix this little problem. Seeking to replicate Warsaw’s economic development program, Montross Town Manager Patricia Lewis and the Montross Planning Commission Chairman, Leonard Carson, paid a visit to Lewis’ counterpart over in Warsaw, Joseph Quesenberry.
“My goal when I got this job was to try to promote businesses and keep revitalization alive. Now that the latter is done, I want to focus on the former.”
According to the presentation that Lewis and Carlson put together, in the 1960’s in this case, there were at least 23 thriving businesses in the central district, which included two barber shops, three grocery stores, two car dealerships, two insurance offices, two furniture stores, and much more. Nowadays, things have shriveled up.
“Since that time, there’s been a steady decline,” Carlson lamented, “with no broad action by the town to fill that void. We’re not diversified, primarily restaurants and antique shops.”
The solution, according to Town Manager Patricia Lewis was to encourage the development of businesses here in Montross by making grants and low-interest loans available for starting up businesses. In short, while the town’s revitalization projects brought it back from the brink of being a dying town, now they need to start bringing new businesses in, a position which Lewis laid out at the meeting.
“The town went through a transformation when revitalization took place,” she stated. “Now it’s time to do what we can to attract businesses to our beautiful town. The town council is on board to make that happen.”
To that end, a couple of incentives were passed through at the meeting, first by the Planning Commission, then by the Council. The first was a $625 rental payment per month for 12 months grant. In order to get this, the business would have to agree to remain in business for at least three years. Furthermore, the businesses can apply for a loan through the town at a repayment low interest rate of 3% for five years.
The other key aspect of this is to get the owners of vacant business buildings in the town, such as the former Blue & Gray, Hutt Realty, and the former NAPA building, to support the town’s initiative program by offering what Lewis and Carlson called “reasonable rental and satisfactory building conditions.” If they don’t, then this goal of improving the town will not be able to come to fruition. Lewis stated that she would also be available to give additional information, as well as take applications for the program at the Montross Town Hall.