Starting next week, nonprofits and public entities can apply for 2022 improvement grants from the Platte County Improvement Fund.
The purpose of the grants, said Katy McNeil, director of the Columbus Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), is to create and improve tourist attractions in the community.
“They are often known as bricks and mortar grants and can be used for the construction costs, design, etc., of tourist attractions that have the potential to increase visitor volume in our community,” McNeil said. “The Advisory Board’s goal is to continue to develop our opportunities for visitors and the things they can do while they are here.”
Previously, grants were available to 501c(3) organizations and government entities, but this year, 501c(4) groups will be able to apply.
“The only major difference between a nonprofit C3 and a C4 is that a C4 has the ability to lobby/campaign,” McNeil said. “Until recently, our application process specified the type of nonprofit organization as a 501c(3) for the application process. We were approached by an interested group during a previous grant round for extend application to 501c(4)s.”
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Nebraska’s Visitor Development Law dictates how dollars can be awarded and the CVB’s advisory committee met, McNeil said, and decided that 501c(4)s might be allowed to apply under current state law.
Applications will be accepted September 1 through September 30, with forms with bids and construction estimates due to the CVB office by noon September 30. This is also the last day the CVB will be located inside the Columbus area chamber. from the commerce office, so the forms will be due there.
The CVB Grants Committee will review applications to determine project eligibility and plan each applicant’s presentations to the Advisory Committee. The advisory committee will then make recommendations to the Platte County Board of Supervisors who will make the final decision.
Applicants are notified of the status of their application after the supervisors meeting on December 6 or 20.
According to fund guidelines, criteria considered include the potential to attract overnight guests to Platte County, long-term investment in the community and rate of return, uniqueness of the area, the ability to encourage and solicit participation from the general public and positive visibility for the county.
The improvement grants have been offered since 2016 and are funded by the county’s 2% lodging tax, which is collected from hotels, Airbnbs, campgrounds, and other lodging establishments that offer overnight stays. McNeil noted that the grants are a good way to continue developing Platte County attractions.
“I think the Visitors Bureau as a resource in our community is under-recognized for the work we do to promote the growth of our economic well-being as a community and the grants provide an opportunity to showcase the role of a CVB in a dynamic environment. and growing community! McNeil said.
Dennis Hirschbrunner of the Columbus Area Antique Fire Apparatus Preservation Society said the group received two grants for its fire truck museum in downtown Columbus.
The first involved redoing the exterior of the building, which is located at the intersection of 13th Street and 23rd Avenue. Hirschbrunner noted that people seem to like the look of the building, which has been painted bright red.
“It went well. We always get compliments from people who really like the building, appreciate the color and the look of the building,” Hirschbrunner said. “It was a big hit in the community.”
The second grant is used for interior renovations, which are currently underway.
“We are currently working with our architect to finalize the design of the interior upgrades,” he added. “I know we need to build new public toilets there. We are going to change all the lighting so you can see the vehicles at night through the windows. We have to do something with the floor, most likely seal it, so we still have some work to do inside.
Previous grant recipients have also used funds for projects at the Humphrey Aquatic Center, Humphrey Veterans Memorial, Pawnee Park Baseball Field, Columbus Public Schools Football Field Lighting/Scoreboard, Camp Pawnee Grain Dump Pavilion, renovations at the Andrew Jackson Higgins Memorial, Platte County Museum, the Columbus Innovation Center, the Columbus Arts Council, the Columbus Area Children’s Museum and many more.
“We have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in our community to improve the visitor experience and look forward to future partnerships to grow our county!” McNeil said.