The Tax Increment Finance Authority of Hillsdale is looking to vamp up downtown Hillsdale by bringing in more small busi­nesses. The goal, Assistant to the Pres­ident of Hillsdale College and member of TIFA Mike Harner said, is to build a better tax base in Hillsdale.

TIFA pro­vides money for city busi­nesses to make improve­ments with the net effect of keeping the city’s tax base strong.

The Hillsdale TIFA dis­trict is the downtown, cov­ering Broad Street, Hillsdale Street, Bacon Street, and Car­leton Street. TIFA is rel­e­gated to pro­viding grants within their spe­cific dis­trict.

“People come to TIFA and want to redo the front of their buildings to make the downtown look better,” Harner said.

These grants are called “facade grants” and offer to cover up to 50 percent of nec­essary exterior remod­eling costs.They are just one example of how TIFA helps to make downtown Hillsdale a more wel­coming place. But TIFA isn’t just worried about aes­thetics.

In a survey, large man­u­fac­turers told the Hillsdale TIFA that they would be more willing to set up shop in Hillsdale if the tired and often vacant downtown were improved.

“We are trying to meet a need that we are told is one of the primary needs,” Pres­ident of the Hillsdale TIFA Chris Sumnar said. “If we can create a new restaurant des­ti­nation in downtown Hillsdale that will draw traffic at night, it will be easier to bring in retail stores and have a more lively night-life downtown. That can be pretty much non-existent now.”

TIFA has created an incentive program that encourages small busi­nesses to invest in the downtown. The program is specif­i­cally looking for fine-dining restau­rants.

TIFA attempted this project about a year ago but with limited success. Sumnar said there was interest, but every­thing ended up falling through. The program is dif­ferent this year, however, and TIFA is expecting more interest.

“We are really just now picking this up again,” he said. “We are sending out mail and giving phone calls to try and solicit interest again.”

Coun­cil­woman and member of TIFA Mary Wolfram said the goal is to bring in a restaurant that is open later and focuses on dinner rather than light lunches and coffee.

“It’s odd to have an entire downtown and not one full-service, fine-dining restaurant,” Wolfram said.

Sumnar said TIFA is offering to provide the $20,000 it takes to pur­chase a liquor license. In addition, TIFA is willing to help with a facade grant.

“Any­thing that would get a business started downtown that would get an empty or non-per­forming property working would be good,” Harner said. “A restaurant is a big thing. It will take a fair amount of time to develop some­thing. It is an incentive to know that TIFA is there to help [busi­nesses] get underway.”