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City’s Business Incentive Program Shows Success, Faces Challenges

The business of facelifting: Jungle Grille style

If you are planning to start up a business in College Park, here is the first stop you want to consider in your journey: Economic Development Department of the City of College Park.

Where the State and the County offer help with funds for new businesses, City’s Economic Development Department is also trying its best to entice new merchants set up their shops inside the City.

Termed as “College Park Business Incentive Program”, the initiative is offering up to $2,500 in dollar for dollar matching grants to city businesses for the design, fabrication, and installation of storefront signs.

By providing signage incentives, the City hopes to encourage new and existing businesses to improve their façades by upgrading their signs with quality materials. Funds will be disbursed after signage has been installed.

The City approved $10,000 last year for the program. So far, four businesses – Jungle Grille, Street Tacos, Ledo Restaurant and Bagel Place took advantage of the program in the past year. This year, the applications for two more businesses, Azteca and Ollies Grill have been approved. Also, the application for one more business – Three Stripe Addidas is pending for approval.

So far, the program has been wildly popular among the business communities” – said Christopher Warren, program’s coordinator in an interview to me. Mr. Waren said he intends to ask the City to extend the program in the next fiscal year (FY2012).

In order to be eligible for the program, the business or the property owner must operate in the Downtown, Hollywood, Route 1, or Berwyn commercial districts. Funds will be disbursed to the grant applicant after work is successfully completed and invoices are submitted to the City.  Also, applicants will not be reimbursed for work completed before the Business Incentive Program application is approved by the City.

Businesses, who are part of a strip mall, such as the ones in REI / MoM shopping complex, will also need the approval of the property owner to apply for the program.

The signage incentive program however had its own challenges. Except one, most of the business who took advantages of the program are from the downtown area. The only north College Park business using the program, Azteca Mexican restaurant on Route 1, is expected to open its door in early summer this year.

Mr. Warren said he tried his best to outreach to the businesses in north College Park, but did not get a good response. The harsh economic situation may have contributed to this lack of response, he thinks.

In addition to the signage incentive program, the Economic Development Department also help local businesses in a number of ways. The department often help direct businesses to which city department to talk to for a particular issue. It also helps new merchants navigating the process of opening a business in College Park, find a space, provide market data and information on county/state loan programs . The department also market local businesses through a website called shopcollegepark.org

To contact the Economic Development Department, please call or send an email to Chris Warren- Economic Development Coordinator at 240-487-3543 cwarren@collegeparkmd.gov.

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