Sahuarita has ended a program designed to help local businesses through the pandemic and will reroute leftover money to its tech center, which is still looking for its first tenant.
The Business Safety and Recovery Program launched in July as a way to support local businesses. It was intended to run through December, or when the $600,000 earmarked for one-time grants of up to $10,000 for qualifying businesses ran out. Instead, they closed the program Oct. 31, with $160,000 left over.
Town staff is recommending that the council on Monday approve the remaining funds to be moved to the Sahuarita Advanced Manufacturing and Technology Center (SAMTEC).
Economic Development Director Victor Gonzalez said the program was ended early because they believe they had reached all the businesses it was designed to help.
“The program and funding went out to really all those businesses we had created the program for,” he said. “When you look at the program and who it's targeted for, it’s those businesses impacted by COVID-19, so they either were closed or limited services and also the nature of their business, those that interact with a large base of customers and residents. The program was created for those types of businesses and really we've awarded pretty much all our local restaurants, beauty salons, some dental offices… We feel really good about the program.”
Gonzalez said they decided to cut the program short in mid-October; a drop-off in applications helped make that decision.
He said the Economic Development team reached out to the 140 businesses on their targeted list prior to the new deadline of Oct. 31, and gave them two weeks notice that they would be closing early.
Altogether, the town awarded $440,000 to 43 businesses, the majority of which were restaurants. Other types of businesses awarded included salons and barber shops, retail, assisted living, gyms and others.
The $600,000 that had been allocated to the program was made possible through the town’s allocation of AZCares funding, designed to help with police payroll costs. Freed up money in the general fund was set aside for this program.
Gonzalez said the remaining $160,000, if approved Monday, will go to interior improvements at SAMTEC.
SAMTEC, which was funded by a $3 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration and additional grants, is designed to house up to three businesses in the technology industry.
Since the project received its funding in 2017, the town has not secured any tenants and construction finished in September.
SAMTEC is an open layout to be customized by future tenants and Gonzalez said the $160,000 would help meet specifications tenants want.
"We're setting it aside to fund interior improvements to SAMTEC," he said. "We feel we can make use of those dollars when we do secure tenants for SAMTEC."
They have had a few additional inquiries from businesses about SAMTEC since September, but nothing concrete, he said.