Businesses in Madison Heights awarded pandemic relief grants

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published August 7, 2020


MADISON HEIGHTS — When the pandemic started, many businesses had to temporarily close or curtail their operations for safety reasons. This naturally took a toll on their finances and put some in a precarious position.

That’s why the city of Madison Heights started a campaign, “Stand with Small Businesses, Madison Heights,” to raise funds and awareness for local businesses, giving them a boost as they continue to adapt to the pandemic.

More than $30,000 was raised, well beyond the initial goal of $10,000 in donations. This was achieved in part with matching funds from Oakland County and the Madison Heights Downtown Development Authority. The county invited communities to participate in the matching funds program and to start their own campaigns to promote the effort at the local level.

In the end, the exact total raised for Madison Heights businesses was $30,750. More than 60 businesses and individuals donated. Now, 12 businesses have received grants for $2,550, out of 21 that applied. The 12 that received grants include:
• ABC Vacuum Shop
• BA’s Barbershop
• Clark’s Fabrication and Design
• Fit One for Women
• Madison Park Bowl
• Manufacturing Dynamics
• MedPlus Equipment Services
• Miss NeNe’s Child Care Center
• Planet Rock
• Salty Dog Bar
• Sunrise Thai Restaurant
• You Scream, I Scream Ice Cream

Sunrise Thai Restaurant received an additional grant of $150 by way of a random drawing — this was the amount left over after the 12 businesses each received their $2,550.

Donations were accepted throughout May. Eligible businesses included those with 30 employees or less in the city of Madison Heights. The grants are aimed at covering employee wages, rent, utility payments and other bills.

The Madison Heights City Council and other city boards were excluded from the process of deciding the grant recipients. This is because some elected officials and appointees own businesses that were eligible for the grants.

Instead, a review committee was established comprising Oakland County staffers, members of the Madison Heights/Hazel Park Chamber of Commerce, and city staff where there was no conflict of interest. The committee reviewed each application and scored different criteria, with the most points awarded to businesses that hadn’t already received other forms of assistance, and who either owned their location or were on a long-term lease.

“At the time of the review and award, most of the businesses awarded did not receive any assistance from other sources such as the Oakland County small business grant or federal PPP monies,” said Melissa Marsh, the city manager of Madison Heights.

She noted that most businesses in the city have seen decreases in activity lately and that the city continues to search for ways to help.

“Other than this grant program, the city also approved relaxed standards for outdoor seating, sidewalks sales and other measures to assist businesses in social distancing requirements and attracting customers,” Marsh said. “Small businesses are the backbone of our community. We are glad to have a program that probably brings some relief for them.”

Weathering the storm
Kymm Clark is a member of the Madison Heights City Council. The business she co-owns with her husband, Clark’s Fabrication and Design, was among the grant recipients.

“The ‘Stand with Small Business’ grant was a godsend to the small businesses in our city who didn’t qualify for many of the lifeline opportunities offered by the federal, state and county governments,” Clark said. “COVID-19 is likely the biggest threat to small businesses right now. Having gone nearly three months without being able to work, many businesses still haven’t started earning an income. Many of us are still catching up on what wasn’t able to be paid without being able to open our doors.”

She noted how the grant program helps a wide range of businesses, from Madison Park Bowl — a long-time family entertainment staple in the community — to Manufacturing Dynamics, a new startup beginning to break into the industry.
“With all of the hurdles small businesses face in their first few years, having to make it through a global pandemic will prove to be the most challenging,” Clark said.

She said that local government needs to do its part to help its business community survive.

“I believe if a municipality advocates for its small businesses and entrepreneurs, they will find that they can weather this storm, with the tenacity and motivation of those ready to bring innovation and creativity that we want to see as we develop in the new world of COVID forcing us to adapt,” Clark said.

She encourages investors who haven’t taken a financial hit to help develop rescue funds for small businesses, or to collaborate in other ways that help the greater business community pull through the pandemic.  

“Our city is deeply rooted in the entrepreneurial spirit. This could be a great time to discuss shared workspaces and amenities that help advocate for innovation and problem-solving within our city borders, and to do so safely,” Clark said. “We already have so many people growing businesses in their backyards, garages and spare bedrooms throughout the city. I would love to see more opportunities created for those who have the ambition but who lack the finances or resources to break through.”