Grants totaling $72,000 recently approved by the Paducah Area Community Reuse Organization will help small businesses in Metropolis, Illinois, recover from the impacts of COVID-related closings and further develop a Graves County industrial park.

PACRO is the single point of contact designated by the U.S. Department of Energy to identify and reuse surplus assets from the DOE’s Paducah site to help offset the economic impact on communities, including the loss of jobs, in the aftermath of the plant ceasing production operations.

The organization set up a grant program in 2018 to provide funds for economic development for its member counties of Ballard, Graves, Marshall and McCracken, as well as the city of Metropolis.

Metropolis Mayor Billy McDaniel outlined the $60,000 grant request that was unanimously approved by the PACRO board Wednesday. The city of Metropolis also will provide an additional $6,000, in addition to the grant.

The project is designed to support local businesses that were forced to close or modify their operations due to COVID-related government mandates, and includes reimbursement for public protection equipment and operating expenses incurred as a result of closure or reduced capacity.

The aid is designed primarily for small businesses and is capped at $3,000 per business.

“The small businesses are the ones in my community that’s been in operation maybe less than five years and haven’t had the opportunity to generate a nest egg for hard times,” McDaniel said.

The mayor told the board the reason he hadn’t submitted a grant request earlier is the belief “the need in the next six months is going to be greater than the last part of 2020, because we’re just now opening up over here in Illinois, up to 25% on restaurants and things of that nature.”

The $12,000 grant for Graves County was presented by Andrew Ellison, a county representative on the PACRO board and vice chairman of Graves County Economic Development.

“We’ve got the Hickory Industrial Park in Graves County, and we’ve been blessed to have a lot of active projects,” Ellison said. “And, we’re working on some more and we’re at the point where that park is full.

“Because of that we needed more acreage. At the same time all this was going on we have a very active, extra large (potential) project that is showing a high likelihood of taking this property we’re calling the Holland property,” he said.

“You all know where General Tire is on Highway 45. This property is across the street from that. It’s highly marketable, good for industrial use. It’s got all the utilities ... it checks a lot of boxes for an industrial property.”

Graves County Economic Development has the title to the property, Ellison said, and intends to proceed with its further development.

“We’re moving forward whether or not this one company moves on it. I really do think it will happen, but even in the event that they don’t, we’re moving forward either way.”

The grant application, also unanimously approved by PACRO, is designed to pay for an archaeological survey of the property, one standard for industrial parks that would like to utilize federal funds, including Community Development Block Grants.

“I think it’s a great thing for Graves County,” Ellison said.

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