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Goosing the economy

Tourism’s Blue Goose building to serve as a business incubator

By Jeremy D. Wells

Carter County Times

Grayson tourism is moving forward with their plans for renovations and upgrades to the old Brown Mobile Home building – redubbed the Blue Goose Building in honor of the historic passenger train – turning the edifice into a business incubator, as well as an office, event, and performance space.

Grayson city council met in special session last week to approve tourism’s request to apply for a loan to begin the renovation process.

While they still hope to secure USDA Rural Business Development Grant (RBDG) funds to help with that renovation, tourism will have to fund part of the renovations themselves. To do this, the city approved a request from tourism to take out a loan for the first phase of the project, which includes a roof replacement and reinforcement of the exterior walls.

Don Combs, treasurer for the Grayson Tourism Commission, explained that while this project doesn’t require bonding through the city like the sports park project did, the tax funds collected by tourism will still serve as the collateral for the loan, allowing them to lock in similar rates without putting a financial burden on the city.

“With a project like this, as well as the sports park, when you bond or borrow money, the collateral for that loan or bond is the tax – in our case restaurant and hotel taxes,” Combs explained. “That’s the collateral behind this loan, so there’s no city funds wrapped up.”
But because the tourism commission is associated with the city, and backed by tax revenue, Combs continued, the Blue Goose project will, “basically used the same method of collateralizing that loan… plus it gets us a municipal rate too, which is very beneficial.”

Combs said the $480,000 loan will also allow them to refinance their original $180,000 purchase price, to lock in a lower rate.

“Number one, it’s going to refinance the purchase price of it that we did a year ago,” he said. “So, we’ll get that one – we’ve just been paying interest on that right now – but we’ll be making payments paid on a 15 year term…. Plus it will finance the upgrade that we’re doing to it, which is going to be a roof, which is going to be roughly $200,000 to fortify and support the roof as well as these block exterior walls, to fortify those a little bit.”

He said they anticipated that costs and an additional $100,000 will allow them to “fix up this (left hand) side of it to get it ready, put some bathrooms in the back and hopefully a commercial kitchen to be able to utilize.”

Combs said the commercial kitchen, while not a large affair, would help fulfill the business incubator goal by giving folks the opportunity to make and sell their artisanal food products.

“It won’t be a full-blown commercial kitchen, but it’ll be a type of commercial kitchen where people can make things (for resell),” he said.

The other side of that, he explained, would be serving as a market, to give folks a place to sell any jams, preserves, salsas, or other products they might have.

“Probably the main thing (on the business incubator end) is to create a market where people can sell both food and locally produced products,” Combs said. “Then, the other half, is we’re planning on having a restaurant, or some food and drink type something.”

He said they still aren’t’ sure if that’s going to be a “full blown restaurant” or more of a place to grab a drink and a quick bite. That, he said, depends in part on what type of business someone wants to bring to the space. He’s already got one established business planning to use the facility for a demonstration space, if not for full production.

“We’ve got a spot that Will Stevens (of Goose Bridle Coffee) is wanting to put his roaster in, to be used as a demonstration kind of thing,” Combs said. “Will is kind of our poster child for what this whole building is about; people starting businesses in their garages, in their kitchens… and all of a sudden they’re expanding to where they’re selling nationwide. So, those are the things we’re wanting to get done as quickly as possible.”

Future plans could include meeting spaces and temporary office space, he said, but that’s all further down the line.

The first round of improvement plans have been defined, he said, and now they’re waiting on approval from the state.

“The plans are, for the most part, done. Now it’s a matter of sending them off to Frankfort for the state permitting,” Combs said. “Then we should be ready at that time to put the project out for bid. So, two months from now, possibly, we could (get started), and hopefully we’ll find somebody local.”

Whatever the timeline, he said, tourism expects the building will be utilized at least in part for Memory Days events, so the public can take that opportunity to see the work that’s already been done to clean out and prepare the space.

“If not both sides, maybe at least one side (will be utilized) for Memory Days, as well as out here (in the pocket park between buildings),” he said.

Contact the writer at editor@cartercountytimes.com

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