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State awards funding to downtown Hyannis businesses

April 5, 2021 : Boston University Statehouse Program, by Shaun Robinson

BOSTON – Barnstable business leaders say a new $30,000 state grant is helping local shops keep their doors open – and their customers and employees safe – as the town gears up for summer amid the lingering financial uncertainty of the pandemic.
The grant, announced last week, was awarded to the Downtown Hyannis Community Development Corporation. It is a slice of more than $500,000 given to organizations in 10 cities.

MassDevelopment, a state business agency, oversaw the funding through its Transformative Development Initiative.

Local businesses have already received the funding and can use it for many different purposes, said Elizabeth Wurfbain, executive director of the Hyannis Main Street Business Improvement District. Some may use it to purchase personal protective equipment, while others may use it to create an outdoor section of their shops. Still others may use the funding just to keep the lights on.

“Every downtown has a core that depends on locally owned businesses. They employ the community,” Wurfbain said. “It’s an engine, and it’s also the distinguishing piece for each part of the region.”

Barnstable is the Cape's 'Gateway City'
Barnstable is one of the state’s 26 “Gateway Cities,” defined by the Legislature as mid-size urban centers that anchor regional economies, have underused assets and face ongoing social and economic challenges. It is the only community with this designation on Cape Cod.

The Transformative Development Initiative, or TDI, supports economic growth in core districts of these Gateway Cities, including the area around Main Street in Hyannis, said George Durante, the organization’s regional TDI fellow for Barnstable, Attleboro and Brockton.

“The idea is to take a very small geographic area,” he said, such as a five-minute walking radius, “and put as many resources as possible to mobilize as many stakeholders as possible, and really help to accelerate the revitalization of the neighborhood through the community’s vision.”

The recent funding marks the second round of TDI emergency grants awarded since the outset of the pandemic. Last April, 10 community organizations received about $550,000 from the state, and Wurfbain said there have been many other programs to support small businesses as well.

Organizations in Attleboro and Brockton also received $30,000 grants this round, and an additional $60,000 in grants went to organizations in Chelsea, Chicopee, Fall River, Fitchburg, Lawrence, Springfield and Worcester.

Each organization had to apply for MassDevelopment funding and describe how they would use the money to support their communities," Durante said. Applications for another round of funds close April 7.

Wurfbain said the state has been a strong partner in helping businesses across Massachusetts respond to the challenges of the pandemic, including in Barnstable.

“They’ve been very active in trying to support their downtowns,” she said. “Especially Hyannis, as well as the town of Barnstable – they recognize the importance of the center."