Several Madison, Ind., businesses
get help with new grant program
The program offers partially forgivable loans/grants
(October 2020) – Receiving one of the 12 Jefferson County, Ind., loan/grant awards in September was described by Madison-based photographer Brenda Shropshire as “basically turning the light on. It was going out quickly.”
The program is the first countywide economic development program for Jefferson County, according to Jefferson County Commissioner President, David Bramer. Jefferson County was one of only 42 statewide recipients across all cities and counties in the entire state of Indiana to receive funds to establish the new 2020 Restart, Sustain, Succeed Revolving Loan/Grant Fund Program.
Small Business Award Recipients
Keepsake Consignment, Tammy Black;
Darrell’s Tire & Alignmen, LLC, Angela Powell;
Cozy Acres Golf Complex , Michelle Lovato & Michael Dowell;
Clifty Garden Center, Andrew Crabtree;
Lee’s Locksmith Service, Lee Smith Jr.;
Attic to Basement/Sugar on Main, Mitzi Dempler;
Midwest Gym Supply, Paul Kemp & Chris Kemp;
Brenda’s Digital Art & Photography, Brenda Shropshire;
Made with Fire, Seth Bickis;
Steven Bickis Art & Sign, Steven Bickis;
Kirsten Quick Cosmetology, Kirsten Quick;
The Red Pepper LLC, John & Lori Heitz.
The new program provides a $25,000, half in zero interest loan, with half as a forgivable grant after two years. The awards were made possible with funding from Indiana’s Office of Rural Affairs, Federal HUD dollars, Jefferson County Commissioners and the Jefferson County Board of Tourism. While past programs have been restricted to City of Madison businesses, this program is the first to include countywide “mom and pop” sole proprietors, partnerships and small corporations.
“We wanted everyone to have a chance, no matter how small their business,” said Jefferson County Commissioner Robert Little.
“I can’t be mad about not selling art at this time,” Shropshire said. “No one else has money either.”
She graduated from Madison Consolidated High School in 1979 and started working in a factory. That work continued until after her children were grown. She started taking pictures during her walks along the river. The sunrises were so amazing, she said. When she was laid off from her job, she looked at her pictures and said to herself, “I’m supposed to do this. This feels like the path I’m supposed to take.”
During that same time, her 33-year-old daughter, Natalie Johnson, was struggling with colon cancer. Natalie had also started taking photos. She was beginning to help Shropshire with wedding photography. However, Natalie’s cancer progressed. She entered a hospice program just when Shropshire’s job ended. As a result, Shropshire had the extra time she needed to focus on her daughter.
Even though it’s been three years since the loss of her daughter, she still remembers the helpless feeling that there was nothing she could do.
Brenda Shropshire sells her photography at the Madison Farmers’ Market among other places.
Currently, Shropshire is doing some wedding photography and high school senior pictures. She is painting in her home studio, working on some commissioned projects and designing artwork for T-shirts.
Shropshire has been limited to selling her work on Facebook. This award will help her create a much-needed website for her business, she said. “I am so excited to get this award. I am so thankful to the Jefferson County Commissioners and to the Tourism Board. It’s unbelievable.”
This award will also help Lee Smith Jr. purchase new equipment and expand his business. He owns Lee’s Locksmith Service on Main Street in Madison. Smith lives in Paynesville, Ind., and previously had his shop there. That location provided no visibility and very little walk-in traffic. Three years ago, he relocated his shop to Main Street in downtown Madison. Now that he has employees working in the store, he is not the only one using his equipment. Updated equipment will allow him to more easily train his employees.
“Doors are opening every day (pun intended),” Smith said. Having this money to invest in new equipment and tools for his business will make him more profitable, he said. He said he hopes to hire up to four full-time workers plus one part-time employee.
One new employee is just finishing training now. Hiring installers is next on his list. He is also adding new merchandise to the store, especially decorative keys and items in the $1-$5 range that attracts visitors. He has expanded his selection of residential locks, including mid-priced Yale locks as well as high-end Emtek locks that range from traditional to modern styles.
Smith, 52, started with only a little knowledge about residential locks. His father died when he was only 34. “He was my best friend; it was so hard. Instead of going to bars to overcome my loss, I took a Foley-Belsaw Locksmithing correspondence course that was advertised in a magazine.”
When he found old locks, he would buy them to learn how they worked. Every time he earned some money, he used part of it to reinvest in his own education. He continued working full time in a maintenance job and started doing locks as a side job. His business grew so much that he quit his day job. He was finally a full-time locksmith.
Lee Smith Jr. poses beside his Lee’s Lock Service van in Madison, Ind. He was one of 12 local businesses and individuals who received one of the new partially forgivable loans/grants from a countywide program.
Today his knowledge includes a special GSA security certification, which allows him to work at military installations. He is one of six individuals in Indiana with that certification. “I work 24/7, eight days a week,” he said with a smile. He has not taken a vacation since 2008.
“I was overjoyed to be eligible for this program. I served in the United States Army in Panama from 1985-87 and spent eight years in the Kentucky National Guard,” he said. “This program shows that no matter what the political background, when the parties come together, we can bring good to our community. It is great when fellow citizens help each other.”
The collaborative grant team of Jefferson County Board of Tourism member Tami Hagemier and VisitMadison Inc.’s grant writer, Holly Love-Gibson, worked closely with the County Commissioners to write the grant and coordinate all of the funding sources.
The recipients of this first round of Jefferson County’s Restart, Sustain and Succeed Program include veterans, women, minority-owned businesses, artists, restaurants, agribusiness, salon operators, sign painters and locksmith businesses. Awards were based on the highest scores from guidelines established by the state and county commissioners.
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