MSA’s funding team has a genuine passion for helping clients transform their visions into reality.
We’ve been providing funding services for 40+ years and know how much communities can struggle with getting projects off the ground. Our team’s diverse set of knowledge allows us to pursue and bundle the right funding sources to meet each unique need — and we thrive on helping communities like yours succeed. Get to know the faces behind our funding strategies in the digital flip book below or keep scrolling for the same six-question Q&A in long format.
Q1: How do you feel you best help communities with their funding needs?
Ben: Grant administration can be a complicated business. I help communities with their funding needs during the grant administration process by streamlining some of the processes to avoid any unnecessary duplications, which saves time and expenses for the community.
Art: My experience as an elected official and village administrator makes it a natural occurrence for me to explain and assist our clients through almost any project, be that: Capital Improvement Planning, Creating Comprehensive Plans or Outdoor Recreation Plans, Zoning, Ordinances, Funding Applications and Administration, Utility Operations, Municipal Administrative Processes, PSC Planning and Reporting, etc. I’ve been in their shoes and I’ve more than likely experienced what they are going through in their own municipalities or utilities.
Nicole: Each funding agency has their own regulations and requirements to follow. If you aren’t familiar with them, they can be very overwhelming and challenging. Due to the volume of projects that we assist with, we have a strong system in place to guide and support communities through the process. We also have strong working relationships with the various funding agencies.
Kianna: When we look at funding a project for a community, we try to put multiple sources of funding on that one project to get as much of the project paid for in grant dollars as we can. Being able to show a client that there is a possibility for several different funding options to make a project happen gives them hope to see that project through!
Brandon: I’ve had the opportunity to gain a wide variety of experience over the course of my career. This gives me the ability to address a broad range of issues facing a community and connect them with the right funding opportunity.
Brittney: With many MSA communities, if they don’t have funding, they cannot afford to do the projects that are needed. With the help of our Funding team and all of MSA’s services, we can help them get their project done from start to finish.
Britta: Putting together applications and doing administration for funding sources can be a lot of additional work to undertake for a community. I enjoy taking that burden off communities’ plates and getting those processes completed from start to finish.
Dave: We work as if we are an extension of the communities’ own staff by identifying and securing funding for their community development needs.
Jennifer: I am responsible for fully administering CDBG grants from the time the grant is awarded until the project is complete and the grant is closed out. Therefore, I take on all the administrative duties and there is no time burden on the communities at all.
Mary: The folks involved with municipal operations are already busy, and they work with the programs and regulations infrequently. We can partner with them to locate possible funding, work through the requirements and timing, file application and administrative information on their behalf through the state and federal systems, and help the process move as smoothly as possible.
Tara: I enjoy helping the community understand the intricacies of state and federal funding programs. Smaller communities are often overwhelmed by funding requirements. I love framing the programs in a way that is easily understood, manageable, and able to achieve the community’s goals.
Diane: Being frank and honest about the competitiveness of their project for funding and finding funding that they weren’t aware of.
Q2: What first attracted you to a career in funding and/or community development?
Ben: I was attracted to a career in funding because it provided the opportunity to work with many different communities, each with its unique problems and solutions.
Art: Improving the quality of life for the residents of any community has always been a passion of mine. As a prior village administrator and utility manager, I know the issues created by attempting to fund a project and see it through to its successful completion.
Nicole: I liked the idea of helping communities obtain funding for projects that they wouldn’t normally be able to complete.
Kianna: I grew up in a small town of roughly 2,500 people, very similar to many of the clients we work with every day. What drew me in was being able to assist these small villages and cities in finding funding for projects that will help meet the growing needs of their community.
Brandon: Helping others has always been at the core of my personal philosophy and working to improve communities has the potential to positively impact the lives of many people. Community development provides an opportunity for me to use my talents and skills to actualize that principle.
Brittney: I was raised in a village with a population of around 700 people, which is similar in size to many of MSA’s clients. I love to come to work and be able to help communities like the one I grew up in strive and grow.
Britta: I was hired prior to there being a funding team at MSA. I was greatly involved in helping with applications and administration prior to being asked to be a part of something new, and I was excited for that next step. I wanted to move into funding because of the client contact and helping them pursue and complete projects they otherwise couldn’t.
Dave: My entire career (40+ years) has been devoted to working with communities in northern Wisconsin on their community development needs. I have seen first-hand, as a Village Board member and Village President, the limited resources smaller communities have and have worked to assist them to secure funding to implement plans for community development.
Jennifer: I enjoy working with people, organization, attention to detail, problem solving and finding solutions. This career combines all those facets.
Mary: I have worked with many small communities to address their infrastructure needs. Helping them find money to pay for the projects and keep the work as affordable as possible has been critical to helping these communities thrive or even just survive. Mitigating the impact of rate changes on small businesses, the elderly and others on limited incomes has been especially needed.
Tara: Watching my small, hometown struggle to provide adequate public services to its residents.
Diane: I entered local government as a career thinking that being employed by government was the only way to help communities. I now feel that I am better able to help communities by working for MSA because we have so many areas of expertise that we can tap into.
Q3: What are the biggest struggles for communities right now as it pertains to your line of work?
Ben: For many, community growth has slowed, and costs have increased. The full financial impact of the pandemic has been delayed for local governments, with the impact being felt in the 2022 budget and beyond. For many communities whose budgets are primarily composed of property taxes, there are limited options available to make up for increased costs. This leaves municipalities in the difficult position of cutting services to stay within their levy limits. Because of these reasons, it is critically important for communities to be well-informed about the different funding opportunities available.
Art: Knowing the process required to move an idea or improvement concept into estimating, budgeting, and funding — and finally through construction.
Nicole: Staffing and workload. Administrators, clerks, and other municipal employees are being asked to do more and more. I am here to be a resource/expert for communities. Since funding is not something that many communities have experience with, it is nice that I am able to take that responsibility off their shoulders.
Brandon: The current market makes it difficult for communities to attract and retain professional staff. This creates gaps in training and institutional knowledge that challenge communities to meet day-to-day operations and leaves little time to innovate and grow.
Brittney: Communities have failing infrastructure, but not enough money to fix everything. Our MSA Funding team is here to help find funding solutions.
Britta: Right now, communities are struggling to match up all of the new, old, and revamped funding sources with what they are needing to construct or purchase.
Dave: Navigating the increasing federal and state requirements for securing funding programs for these communities and compliance with programs. Most communities simply don’t have the resources to research, apply for and administer these programs.
Jennifer: Communities are struggling with old infrastructure and not enough money to fix all their concerns. That’s where we come in. MSA can assist throughout the entire process and funding is the starting point.
Mary: Biggest struggles for Communities: 1. Regulations and a constantly changing set of requirements to maintain eligibility and project compliance. 2. Time! Everyone is having to do more than ever. 3. Affordability of needed projects.
Tara: Finding the perfect grant! It doesn’t exist. Funding programs will always have a caveat that doesn’t exactly align with what a community wants or needs. Flexibility and compromise are important components to developing a project proposal for a competitive grant/loan application.
Diane: Staffing levels, increasing cost of service provision, unfunded mandates, competing interests, levy limits, and static revenues. These issues are making it harder for local governments to meet the increasing expectations and demands of residents and businesses. Municipal staff wear multiple hats and must be hyper-responsive to their governing bodies, customers, and other regulatory agencies.
Q4: What big changes are you seeing, or do you anticipate seeing, with the release of Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) funding or Buy America, Build America (BABA) requirements?
Ben: BIL was signed into law on Nov. 15, 2021. The funds are expected to be distributed over the next five years, beginning in FY2022. What is exciting about BIL is the diversity of funding programs available through the funding source. Some of those programs are as follows: Surface Transportation Program (STP), Local Bridge, Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP), and Congestion Mitigation & Air Quality (CMAQ). For additional information, visit the WDOT BIL webpage.
Art: I see numerous funding opportunities that will be a one-time offering, involving very short timelines. These funding opportunities may rarely happen again. If we don’t know our clients’ dreams and plans, we may miss opportunities for them to apply. Beyond the application phase, I see additional and complicated reporting during the grant administration process — dotting our i’s and crossing our t’s, as they say, so our client complies with all the granting agency’s requirements and minimizes the risk of not being reimbursed as they expect.
Nicole: Money, money, money. There has been and will continue to be a large influx of funds coming through existing programs such as State Revolving Loan Funds (Safe Drinking Water/Clean Water Fund). There will also likely be additional requirements tied with this funding such as Build America Buy America, so it will be important to ensure those requirements are being met.
Kianna: We are seeing an influx of funding come in through the SRF monies with the release of the BIL. For instance, the Wisconsin DNR SDWLP (Safe Drinking Water Loan Program) increased their principal forgiveness (PF) cap from $500,000 to $1.5 million. In addition to this, there is now a new methodology to calculate PF.
Brandon: National and international markets and supply chains are still in flux responding to global sociopolitical implications of COVID-19 and the Russia-Ukraine war. This will a present number of challenges for meeting BABA. The BIL is an unprecedented infusion of federal money in public infrastructure. Communities need to be ready to seize this opportunity or will be left behind.
Brittney: A lot of the BIL funding is being pushed through the Safe Drinking Water (SDW) and Clean Water Fund programs. These programs are changing their Principal Forgiveness eligibility and maximum grant amounts. For example, the SDW principal forgiveness maximum used to be $500,000 per community. With BIL, it is now a maximum of $1.5 million!
Britta: When administering projects, keeping a project eligible for the funding source is my top priority, so by adding other requirements, there may be challenges we can’t foresee. Trying to stay on top of the funding world can be difficult, but MSA has specific staff members keeping up on the day-to-day updates that are being released.
Dave: Again, it would be identifying those resources and navigating the requirements of those programs.
Mary: A lot of money (with big strings) is attempting to be pushed through existing and new programs. The requirement for true 100% American-made products across the whole construction spectrum will create shortages and challenges but the funding should be a great help to the communities with their infrastructure. How the ‘strings’ are managed will make all the difference.
Tara: More money! BIL funding provides a diverse array of new opportunities and supplemental funding to existing federal programs. The bill has increased funding for a lot of foundational programs our community clients rely on for infrastructure improvements. Of course, more money often means more problems as far as federal funding goes. Our team is monitoring the rollout of these funding requirements in hopes to alleviate the growing pains as the funds trickle down to the local level.
Diane: Lots of opportunity but also lots of missed opportunity. There are so many programs that it’s hard for communities to keep track of all that’s coming out and what is available to them.
Q5: What drives you in the day to day?
Ben: The good and bad part about working in funding is that there are always deadlines. Once a major milestone is met, it seems like another one appears to take its place. Thankfully, deadlines, targets, and goals are strong drivers for completing projects effectively and efficiently.
Art: Caring for our clients and finding ways to assist them with their operations, budgeting, funding and projects. It’s a pleasure to work for some great clients, who have all become my friends. This is accomplished by having an awesome team working with me and by working for a company that takes pride in how we are viewed by our clients.
Nicole: Seeing a project transition from a thought or need into a finished product that serves a benefit to a community and its residents and knowing that I played a part in making it happen.
Kianna: Interacting with and helping clients drives me in the day to day. All the clients we work with are public servants doing their best to better their community for generations to come; being able to be a part of that is extremely rewarding.
Brandon: Making a positive difference in the lives of others.
Britta: I like helping clients match up funding with a project, and then helping them navigate through all of the paperwork, rules, and regulations from planning to construction completion.
Jennifer: I enjoy the relationships I have with our communities and it is rewarding to see their initiatives become realities due to the funding we can assist them in obtaining and administering.
Dave: Being able to identify various sources of funding and bundling those resources to lessen the impact on the residents and businesses of the community. Acting as a “troubleshooter” for TIF Districts and providing recommendations and options to help the communities maximize their District(s) potential.
Mary: Helping communities manage the things they need to do and the available funds to do it.
Tara: Knowing that I am a resource for communities and colleagues to come to. Funding is just a piece of the community development puzzle. I truly enjoy being a part of an effort that improves the quality of life for residents and ultimately increases community sustainability.
Diane: Variety and making a difference.
Q6: If you could tell communities one thing, right now, that would help them the most, what would it be?
Ben: I would tell communities to consider investing in their long-range planning initiatives to obtain a better understanding of their community needs and to better formulate potential projects. When assisting communities, it is extremely helpful to have a defined vision for what the community would like to accomplish in the coming years. The products of long-term planning can be extremely helpful for identifying potential funding sources as well.
Art: Plan!!! Even if it is just a dream that seems far from possible. Put it in writing, in a plan, a Comprehensive Plan, an Outdoor Recreation Plan, a Capital Improvement Plan … put it someplace because someday a grant opportunity or funding opportunity may come up and if you haven’t put it in a plan and created a simple budget or estimate for it, you will not get the money for it. Also, get to know your MSA consultants. Ask them to come to a meeting and introduce themselves. You may be surprised at the conversations that will follow!
Nicole: Although funding comes with some additional work, it is worth it. Also, it is ok to ask for help!
Kianna: There is money to make your project happen! There is an influx of money coming through the state and federal government right now. If you have a project in mind, reach out to the MSA funding team and we will assist you with looking at all your funding options!
Brandon: Take time to plan for the future and establish a shared vision for your community. Develop a strategic plan aimed at realizing that vision.
Brittney: There is a record amount of funding coming down right now with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, but it is for a limited time. Prioritize your projects and contact MSA to help you get them done and take advantage of the money out there.
Britta: Hang in there! Communicate with MSA what you are needing help to fund and let us brainstorm within MSA to see what we can do to help. If there isn’t something out there right now, we’ll keep our eyes open for when there is!
Dave: Ask a Funding Specialist for assistance and involve them from the very start of your project.
Jennifer: It doesn’t hurt to apply for grants. You will miss out on 100% of the grants you don’t apply for. We’re here to help and we’re happy to!
Mary: Funding is more available now than ever before, for a limited time. Work with your engineers and their teams, including funding partners, to prioritize needs, work through the regulations, and access the funds to help, but don’t go it alone.
Tara: Nothing about grant and loan programs is fast, but they are worth it. And free money isn’t ever “free”! There are always some hoops to jump through. Let us help you navigate the hoops! We are weird and enjoy it.
Diane: Have a must-have list. Have a wish list. Have a high-hopes list. Articulate them all in your capital improvement plan, your comprehensive plan, your comprehensive outdoor recreation plan. Make sure all these plans are up to date and adopted by the governing body. When new funding programs are released or an influx of funding is pumped into existing programs, you’ll be at the ready.
Here for you.
The MSA funding team has assisted many communities apply for and receive funding to support their grandest visions, long-awaited plans and critical infrastructure upgrades. From public works and roadways to trails, land development, parks and recreation, housing or blight elimination, we are here to help make your community shine. And, to help minimize stress along the way.
Twelve funding experts with a diverse set of expertise — the MSA funding team is here for you.
Contact us today to get the conversation started.