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Econ panel backtracks on info demands

Members of Evanston’s Economic Development Committee, who’ve spent months demanding more information from people applying for city grants, recoiled Wednesday when they saw the 20-page application form city staff had created in response to their requests.

"I think it’s way too complex," said Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward.

Members of Evanston’s Economic Development Committee, who’ve spent months demanding more information from people applying for city grants, recoiled Wednesday when they saw the 20-page application form city staff had created in response to their requests.

"I think it’s way too complex," said Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward.

She also said the form seemed aimed mainly at applications from non-profit groups, when she’d prefer to encourage applications for the economic development funds from for-profit businesses.

Committee member Dan Mennemeyer said the form asked far too much detail for a small business applying for a modest-size grant. But he said it could be appropriate for larger firms seeking larger amounts of money.

After all, Mennemeyer said, "I have to fill out forms at the bank if I’m asking for money there."

Community and Economic Development Director Lehman Walker said the form had been developed in response to committee concerns about some of the largest recent grant requests — $100,000 for the Technology Innovation Center and $80,000 for the Evanston Community Development Corporation.

He said he agreed that something simpler was needed for the facade improvement program — where grants are typically in the $10,000 to $20,000 range.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said the application should also include some information about standards the city would use to review grant requests — so people didn’t waste their time with applications that were unlikely to be approved.

Rainey suggested forming a subcommittee to review the form and getting somebody who owns a small business to join that group, and the committee decided to take that approach.

Mennemeyer added that the group might end up with three or four different forms for different types and sizes of grant requests. He said he hoped all of them would end up in an electronic format so applicants could download the form and fill in the blanks on a computer. 

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