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How Julie Dennis makes use of imaginative and prescient, expertise to enhance high quality of life — connecting grants with initiatives – Julie Dennis – Florida Politics

Julie Dennis will always remember the sensation of the bump within the highway.

It seems that driving over a downed energy line has a selected really feel to it. She remembers that feeling most clearly from the return to her dad and mom’ Bay County home after Hurricane Michael.

The final half mile took a half-hour.

With plenty of bumps.

Her dad and mom’ home was destroyed. All the group was modified without end.

“I’m a group planner and I’ve been working in catastrophe restoration for twenty years,” Dennis stated. “It’s completely different when it hits dwelling. All a sudden my spacial orientation was off. I’d overshoot turns as a result of there have been no landmarks. No bushes.”

Her aunt and uncle’s home had no roof. Her dad and mom lived together with her for a 12 months. These recollections fueled a brand new profession imaginative and prescient — to turn into the premier grant specialist within the state of Florida, with a give attention to serving to native governments and nonprofits to enhance the standard of life of their communities.

Dennis left Florida’s Division of Financial Alternative shortly after Michael and she or he took her expertise in grant writing to assist individuals within the panhandle get better. By way of her enterprise, OVID Options, she has expanded her grant writing enterprise to serve native authorities and nonprofits in a wider array of areas.

Her message to leaders of these organizations: There’s a ton of cash simply ready so that you can marry with a undertaking.

We sat down to speak with Dennis about the way it works.

Who’re your major shoppers?

They’re largely native authorities and nonprofits, however we work with personal organizations as nicely.

What precisely do you do?

We assist organizations decide the kinds of initiatives they’d love to do then go search for grants to assist them fund and full these initiatives.

What’s a great instance of certainly one of your initiatives?

In Calhoun County, we helped write a long-term restoration plan for the Calhoun County authorities after Hurricane Michael. One of many high initiatives that was recognized was the necessity to rebuild their hospital. The hospital was limping alongside, at greatest. With our companions, we had been capable of assist them land $18.7 million in grant funding. They are going to be breaking floor quickly on a brand-new hospital.

You talked about nonprofit organizations. Any examples there?

We’ve been working with Gulf Specimen Marine Lab. They struggled to acquire grants from state and federal governments. They hadn’t had success in that enviornment and had been skeptical of how we may assist. However we’ve landed them $1 million in grants during the last two years.

They’re not skeptical anymore.

Is that this primarily for large cities?

No. We labored with the Metropolis of Bristol, a tiny city in Calhoun County with a inhabitants of 996 individuals. They’ve a minuscule working price range. Rural communities wrestle on a great day. After Hurricane Michael, it was onerous for them to discover a silver lining. We did long run restoration plan for Liberty County — did an outreach exercise to see what the group wished to see from downtown.

We ended up getting over $9 million for Bristol. It can change that city without end.

Are there nonetheless alternatives created by the American Restoration Act?

Sure — there are a ton of alternatives on the market, from numerous items of federal laws over the previous three years. Along with the American Rescue Plan, there’s the Infrastructure Act. There’s $1.2 trillion in that invoice — it’s nearly overwhelming.

Most just lately with the Inflation Discount Act, there’s more cash coming behind that — together with an enormous focus from a local weather change perspective.

What’s the most important problem proper now?

The factor that’s harder now — it’s not “is there cash on the market?” it’s “how do we discover which supply will greatest meet the initiatives {that a} group has?”

Within the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act alone, the guidebook is lots of of pages of knowledge, which might be overwhelming.

So, what’s the very best method?

The method we recommend with our shoppers is that they don’t begin with the funding that’s out there, however as an alternative with a listing of initiatives they need to accomplish. I at all times inform my shoppers, it’s like strolling into Chili’s and any individual palms you a menu that’s 20 pages lengthy and also you’re overwhelmed. So that you ask your server: “What’s good?” They ask you what you’re within the temper for and also you say rooster and so they level you to a few choices and also you’re joyful.

We do it the identical method. What do you need to accomplish? We do a light-weight strategic planning course of and assist them give attention to what they should do.

As soon as we have now their want checklist and what it prices per undertaking, we are able to exit and mine for sources to match.

What’s one of the simplest ways for an area authorities to hit pay dust?

Goal underserved communities or give attention to resiliency. As well as, if they’re offering new jobs in a focused sector or creating infrastructural enhancements to drive financial improvement. That’s how quite a lot of smaller native governments are aggressive. Say a smaller native authorities is making an attempt to draw a producing operation. Prior to now, these have sometimes gone to city areas due to proximity to rail or ports.

Smaller authorities can get funding for a rail line spur or rail enhancements, to assist recruit these industries. Possibly they’ll enhance water or wastewater capability. There are quite a lot of prospects.

What if I’m a lobbyist for native authorities; what ought to I do know or be doing?

Be certain that your authorities shoppers are conscious of the unimaginable prospects at present in play in the case of grant funding and join them with a grant author who is aware of methods to expertly navigate these rapidly altering waters.

What’s the best factor you ever funded with a grant?

A hometown revitalization program for native governments in north Florida. The concept was to do business revitalization. It may be tough to get grant funding to try this. From a group improvement perspective, generally you are able to do rather a lot with slightly amount of cash — we’re serving to Bristol and Cottondale remodel their business corridors — areas individuals continuously journey by means of. Stuff like streetscaping, cool lighting, welcome indicators, and so on.

What are the present traits in grant funding?

Broadband. Popping out of the pandemic everybody turned aware of the significance of broadband and limitations to work and rural education when it wasn’t out there. In the event you’re desirous about the way in which our infrastructure at present features there are such a lot of prospects — including sensible expertise, making it work for electrical and sensible automobiles. The infrastructure in some locations just isn’t set as much as accommodate that. Grant funding can change the whole lot.

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