MARINETTE — The Marinette Redevelopment Authority voted unanimously Wednesday to use future payments to the de-federalized Community Development Block Grant-Economic Development (CDBG-ED) program to fund a new, part-time marketing position to help businesses in the city advertise their products, services and events. The creation of the position will be reviewed by the City Council before final approval. 

In the past, the CDBG-ED program has been used to award local governments for assisting businesses to create or retain jobs for individuals with low and moderate incomes. The program typically provides funds for local businesses to assist them with opening costs, renovations, equipment purchases and employee training. Finance Director Jacqueline Miller informed the authority in February that the CDBG-ED program was being closed out and de-federalized, after approval by the State of Wisconsin. The authority previously made a recommendation to the City Council to continue the city’s CDBG-ED program during its Feb. 13 meeting. The council, however, kicked it back to the authority and asked for a more in-depth plan regarding how the program will continue. 

The state is requesting roughly $1 million from the City of Marinette within a two-year window which began Feb. 1 to cover the approximately $700,000 of state funds earmarked for the loan program, and approximately $300,000 to cover outstanding debt the city is collecting from those who have taken out CDBG-ED loans. Once the $1 million is paid, whatever money comes in from loan payments belongs to the city, and the authority spent its April meeting brainstorming about how to put those funds to use promoting the city and its businesses. 

In the authority’s Wednesday meeting, Miller said she had come up with an idea for the funds that could cover many of the ideas that were brainstormed. 

“I kind of came up with an idea of a marketing person that would be an employee of the city, part-time,” she said. “Their job would be to work with all the different businesses in town and how to help them market their business.” 

Miller said she liked the idea of using the funds to help market businesses and organize events, but the addition of a part-time employee with those goals would be more helpful than putting those goals on existing employees. She did admit that the funds coming in from the CDBG-ED loans would dwindle each year, but would remain stable long enough to let the part-time position become established and see if it was worth adding into the city’s budget. 

“You’ll have a couple of years to gauge the effectiveness, the efficiency of it,” said authority chairperson Steven E. Lang. “It’s an easy way for the city to start something like this up without going out and hiring a full-time person. ... This is just a nice way to get your feet wet.” 

Authority member Robin Harvey suggested the part-time employee also network with existing local and state groups, such as the Tavern League of Wisconsin, to figure out the best way to promote businesses. 

A motion to recommend the City Council take the incoming loan money to fund a part-time marketing person to help market and support existing area businesses in Marinette was approved unanimously by the authority. The recommendation will be reviewed by the City Council before approval. 

The city receives approximately $61,000 per year in business loan payments, or about $5,000 monthly. One of the outstanding business loans is set to be paid off this year, but there are four other outstanding loans with payment dates that range out to 2028.