By Shelby Stewart
The Ortonville Downtown Development Authority has received a USDA Rural Business Development grant in collaboration with Main Street Oakland County. The money from this grant will be used to develop a Revolving Loan program to loan money to small businesses and commercial property owners in the DDA district and prioritize the issue of underutilized or vacant commercial properties due to insufficient septic capacity and older septic systems.
“Revitalizing our downtown is an ongoing effort and requires focusing on the underlying economic vitality of the district,” said Village Council President and DDA Board Member Tonja Brice. “The DDA’s work is rooted in a commitment to making the most of our community’s unique sense of place, existing historic assets and, in turn, creating a supportive business environment for small business owners.”
Back in 2016, the DDA board began developing a strategic plan, which included a public survey and two community visioning sessions. The information collected gave the DDA feedback for what the community feels about the downtown and what the community was interested in having.
“There is a community desire to see additional retail, a downtown coffee shop, restaurant and other uses with high impact on septic infrastructure,” said DDA President Courtney McClerren. “While our vacancy rate is low, we struggle to create the volume of retail shopping, food and beverage options needed to be viewed as a downtown shopping destination. Every opportunity to help bring businesses downtown is important for the DDA to pursue.”
Since 2017, four retail business start-ups have been denied entry into some of the vacant storefronts by the county health department because of septic systems that would not handle the proposed use. With this grant, small business and commercial property owners will be able to apply for a low or no interest loan to fund upgrades to their septic systems, and as funds are repaid, the program funds are replenished and available for use by another business owner
By Shelby Stewart