A unique program started in 2009 by the Harmony Economic Development Authority (EDA) has more than doubled the city's investment of $190,000. The Harmony Commercial Rehabilitation Program has made a huge difference throughout the community.

"The program ended this December so the exact results of the program aren't finalized yet, but we're on track to have the total investment of all projects surpass $420,000 when it wraps-up," reported Chris Giesen, a CEDA community and business development specialist and economic development coordinator for the Harmony EDA.

Started with surplus funds from a tax increment financing district started in the late 1980s, the city council allotted $150,000 to capitalize the fund. Once the EDA developed guidelines and did some initial marketing, the program became so popular that the initial investment was used up before the program was slated to end in December 2012, so the city council and EDA allowed additional projects to apply on a case-by-case basis, totaling an additional $40,000.

The program guidelines were simple: the EDA would match, dollar for dollar, eligible expenses up to $10,000. Dollars invested through this program were structured as five-year forgivable loans, so that if the building that received funding wasn't sold within five years the owners would not have to repay any of the funds they had received.

Eligible expenses included siding, roof work, windows, doors, signage, awnings, foundation work, exterior brickwork, exterior energy efficiency improvements, accessibility issues and exterior code violation corrections, among others. The EDA also allowed non-eligible interior repairs such as HVAC, electrical, plumbing, and other major remodeling projects to be used towards applicants' program match.

"This program was able to help many, many business owners in Harmony with much needed repairs and improvements," said Giesen. "It also helped a lot of business owners spruce up the exterior appearance of their building."

He continued, "The most interesting part was that even though the EDA didn't have a 'buy local' requirement in the program policy, about 90 percent of all funds spent (through this program) were spent with other Harmony businesses and businesses that support the Harmony community."