Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023 @ 3:17 p.m.
Crescent City Harbor Leads Multi-County Grant Effort; Community Hopes To Win $10 Million in State CERF Dollars
Crescent City Harbor commissioners agreed to take the lead in pursuing state employment development dollars that could benefit a plethora of projects in the region.
After their grant writer said the Del Norte community could receive $6.5 million to $7 million in Community Economic Resilience Fund (CERF) dollars, issued by the California Employment Development Department, harbor commissioners on Tuesday also unanimously agreed to sign a letter of support.
Their vote came the day after the Crescent City Council unanimously approved joining the Harbor District in applying for those CERF dollars. Other community partners in Del Norte County include the Tri-Agency Economic Development Authority, Del Norte Healthcare District, the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation, Elk Valley Rancheria and the Community Food Council.
Other partners, including the Redwood Parks Conservancy, the North Coast Small Business Development Center and the Port to Partnership program touch Del Norte, Humboldt and Mendocino counties, said Mike Bahr, the Crescent City Harbor District’s grant writer.
“We’ll all have to figure out what gets on the chopping block, or they may let us know what gets on the chopping block,” Bahr told the Crescent City Council on Monday, adding that each organization was submitting projects for potential grant funding. “I think we’re going to be incredibly competitive…”
A product of State Senate Bill 162, the Community Economic Resilience Fund program aims to promote sustainable and equitable recovery from the economic stress of COVID-19. The program’s goal is to “diversify local economies and develop sustainable industries,” creating jobs with living wages and opportunities for advancement, Taylor said.
The bill allocated $600 million to CERF and divided the state into 13 regions. According to Taylor, legislators allowed $65 million for the current planning phase — each region will get about $5 million, she said.
A total of $500 million was allocated for project implementation statewide with $50 million for pilot projects. The application for those dollars is due on Monday, Taylor said.
The state is expected to seek economic resiliency projects to fund with the remaining $450 million this spring, Taylor said. Twenty million dollars will go to tribal communities and projects that span two or more counties, she said.
Del Norte County is part of the Redwood Coast Economic Collaborative, which also includes Mendocino, Humboldt and Lake counties. The California Center for Rural Policy is the “regional convener,” Taylor said, and the fiscal agency is the Arcata Economic Development Corporation. Del Norte County also gets an outreach coordinator through North Coast Organizing, Taylor said.
“They’re going to work in our county to help gather all of the different agencies and organizations to decide, or to find out, what our priority projects are,” she told the City Council. “A steering committee will be created to review and provide a recommendation on all of those proposed projects. This will include two representatives from each county, so Del Norte will have two representatives.”
With only $50 million in CERF dollars available for pilot project, each region has the opportunity to apply for a maximum of $10 million, Bahr said.
The Crescent City Harbor District’s proposed pilot projects would require about $8 million in CERF dollars. Their projects include finalizing a fish filet trailer and business incubator, developing a food truck area and developing businesses to support offshore wind turbines, according to Bahr. The Crescent City Harbor District also hopes to hire an economic development coordinator and business developer, a grant writer and a harbor safety officer, according to Bahr’s staff report.
Crescent City is pursuing $5.5 million in grant dollars. Its pilot projects include a downtown revitalization and business development program; joint visitors center at the Cultural Center; and the relocation of the Redwood Coast Transit Authority’s transit center, Taylor said.
According to Taylor, the proposed downtown revitalization and business development program is in the city’s Economic Development Strategic Action Plan. It would include a facade improvement program, forgivable loans for businesses, technical assistance and the improvement of wayfinding signs. The project also includes a study on the cost of starting a business in Crescent City as well as the rates the city imposes on local businesses, Taylor said.
Crescent City is already working with Redwood National and State Parks, the Redwood Parks Conservancy and the Crescent City-Del Norte Chamber of Commerce on a joint visitors center.
“We’re right at the point where we need to start doing community engagement (before) bringing it back to the City Council for consideration,” Taylor said. “But from there, we could just go into next steps which would involve us getting construction documents.”
As for building a transit hub in the downtown area, Crescent City is already working with RCTA on that project. If the CERF grant is successful, then Crescent City would take on construction of the facility and lease it to the transit authority, Taylor said.
Both Taylor and Bahr brought up the competing interests between the city and harbor. Bahr noted that the other agencies involved have also submitted projects that are between $300,000 and $800,000 in cost.
“We’re asking people to submit the projects you want to submit and we will make it all fit into a cohesive whole and (include) how it sets the stage to create jobs,” he said, adding that grant partners will likely have to pair down the number of projects they want to fund. “I think there will be things within the application that doesn’t score high and that’s what the state will come back with.”
According to Harbormaster Tim Petrick, Del Norte County has a good chance to successfully win CERF grant dollars because of all the “pre-work” that’s been done.
“This is a multi-agency grant,” he said. “It’s all about collaboration. And all of the other (agencies) in our region were trying to make this happen and have fallen apart. We’re the only ones who have driven this forward.”
Other projects include a non-emergency medical transport program proposed by the Del Norte Healthcare District and a training and certification program for AmeriCorps youth working in Redwood National and State Parks. According to the Harbor District’s staff report, the last project is a proposal from the Redwood Parks Conservancy and would span Del Norte and Humboldt counties.