Royal Oak Downtown Development Authority grants $1.3M to 92 small businesses

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

Royal Oak's downtown development authority is providing $1.3 million in grants to 92 small businesses to help them weather the COVID-19 outbreak.

The awards ranging from $4,000 to $32,000 are going to restaurants, retailers, salons, cafes and entertainment venues that attract many visitors to the city but have been hurt by state orders to close or operate minimally in efforts to reduce the spread of the virus.

"We're attending to the emergency now," Sean Kammer, Royal Oak downtown manager, said of the grants that are a part of the authority's "relief phase." "It's helping those businesses basically stay afloat with operation expenses since some still are paying rent and the revenue obviously has slowed substantially or stopped altogether."

The Royal Oak Downtown Development Authority is distributing $1.3 million to support 92 small businesses that help to make Royal Oak an entertainment hotspot as they face challenges during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Grant funds will be disbursed in two or three payments. Businesses able to operate now will receive 50% of their award the week of June 15, while closed businesses will receive 25% and an additional 25% when they can open. The next installation will be sent within four to six weeks.

All eligible businesses with 50 or fewer employees that applied are receiving a grant, the amount of which was determined by square footage, rent and average monthly payroll. Longevity bonuses all were given for businesses under the same ownership for every five years opened beyond 10 years.

The money is coming from the authority's fund mostly coming from tax increment financing. The fund, however, has had a sizeable balance over the past year and a half after selling some property in 2018 at the south end of the downtown for a mixed-use development, Kammer said.

The grants are only the start, he added. The authority also is thinking about a "recovery phase" for the downtown with buy-local campaigns, renewed advertising and other programs to boost foot traffic again.

"It's about getting people to have some sort of economic relationship with the businesses downtown," Kammer said, "once we're on the road to securing the public health."

Twitter: @BreanaCNoble