$1M grant to help bring tourism, jobs

The Meadville Tribune
By Konstantine Fekos
July 29, 2014

CONNEAUT LAKE — Conneaut Lake borough has been granted $1 million from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration to help pay for infrastructure improvements in the central business district that are projected to increase business, tourism and jobs for local residents.

The announcement, issued Monday by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, described Conneaut Lake as a “robust business community” and “major regional tourist attraction” with the ability, given the necessary  support, to attract new businesses and amenities.

“The entire (Conneaut Lake Community Development Committee) is excited that the U.S. Department of Commerce agrees it’s a good investment,” said Bill Eldridge, CLCDC chairman and borough council member.  “It was a lot of work, putting this together.”  The CLCDC has spearheaded an effort to revitalize downtown Conneaut Lake and has applied for several grants as part of that work.  This is the second grant announced recently as the group also was awarded $75,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts through its Our Town Project to help develop a public art trail adjacent to the Water Street district.

The grant funding announced Monday could create roughly 78 jobs and generate about $950,000 a year in additional spending by tourists, based on input from local businesses — what Eldridge called a “real-world” estimate derived from the amount of money coming into the borough.

“A number of (businesses) agreed with our projection,” he said.  “With all those improvements in town, their businesses would gain.  They gave rough projections of potential increased employment if all the changes are actually made.”

Infrastructure improvements are expected to include replacement of old utility lines, sidewalk and curbing replacement, road paving, new crosswalk and traffic signal installation, storm drainage improvement and revitalization of Fireman’s Beach, Eldridge said. 

Time frames for upcoming construction and revitalization are yet unknown, Eldridge added, pending Conneaut Lake borough’s receipt of the grant contract.

“They just made the public announcement (Monday),” Eldridge said.  “Typically it’ll be two or three years we’ll have to use those funds.”

Previous grants received total about $1.4 million, excluding the EDA grant announced Monday, and the CLCDC has raised almost $150,000 in private contributions.