Province promises $400K to revitalize downtown Brandon

The province of Manitoba is giving $400,000 to the Brandon Downtown Revitalization Incentive Program to help revitalize the city’s core.

The funds from the province’s pandemic long-term recovery fund will be distributed in partnership with the chamber of commerce, the city of Brandon and the Brandon Downtown Development Corp., Economic Development, Investment and Trade Minister Cliff Cullen announced Wednesday.

“We’re excited to help out the community,” Cullen said at a news conference at the Brandon Chamber of Commerce. “We know there’s work that needs to be done, but hopefully the $400,000 will help in your endeavours to get that done.”

Brandon’s downtown has been feeling the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and other challenges, including safety issues, homelessness and needed infrastructure upgrades, said Brandon Downtown Development Corp. executive director Emeka Egeson.

Many businesses have tried to be innovative and resilient but some have had to close, he said.

A man in a suit speaks at a podium in front of a a sign that says Brandon Chamber of Commerce.
Economic Development, Investment and Trade Minister Cliff Cullen speaks at the Brandon Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

The adversity local entrepreneurs face fuelled the idea for the Brandon Downtown Revitalization Incentive Program, he said.

“We need businesses to strive. We also need new businesses to come here as we deal with our economy,” Egeson said. “One thing is clear — we must revitalize our downtown. We must do it now. In addition, we must do it together.”

To qualify for funding, businesses can reach out to the Chamber of Commerce or the Brandon Downtown Development Corporation, with further details to be released in the coming weeks.

Businesses already in downtown or those that move to the area can qualify for support, officials said. 

Some programs currently run by the Brandon Downtown Development Corp., such as the commercial space improvement program and the storefront improvement program, will be wrapped into the funding, Egeson said, but they will also talk with local businesses to see how they would like funds to be targeted.

The ultimate goal is to make Brandon’s downtown appealing for businesses and visitors.

“Hopefully this is just the beginning of more announcements of incentives regarding the challenges that we face in the downtown,” Egeson said.

“Downtown is a very special place in our community.… It is the heart of our cultural, economic and social landscape, and it plays a meaningful part in the lives of our residents.”

A woman with curly hair stands at a podium holding a piece of paper.
Brandon Chamber of Commerce president Tanya LaBuick says they could create a marketing campaign to promote the area. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

Brandon Chamber of Commerce president Tanya LaBuick said they are looking at downtown as a collective of businesses and could create a marketing campaign to promote the area.

“We’ve all witnessed the hardships [of] our downtown businesses and I just think overall, just the demise of the community and culture in this area, ” LaBuick said.

“We want to continue to support our businesses with this funding, and we hope it’s easy to access and it will bring new light to the downtown area.”

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