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City Seeks New Funds to Help Small Businesses

7/11 Store on Edgewood Road

In last night’s worksession, the Council discussed the application of a $180,000 funds to help improve small businesses in the City.

For fiscal year 2012, the city submitted an application for $140,000 in Community Legacy grant funds for the demolition of several vacant buildings on Route 1 and was awarded a $75,000 grant.

On June 29, 2012, the DHCD announced that fiscal year 2013 funding would be $6,000,000, an increase from $4,250,000 in fiscal year 2012. Staff applied for grant funds for the formation of a Commercial Tenant Improvement Program, which will provide new small businesses with a matching grant for the costs associated with leasehold improvements (HVAC, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, windows, flooring, etc.).

The application is seeking $180,000 in funding to assist approximately 6-10 businesses. The grant would provide up to 70% of the total cost of improvements with a maximum of $30,000 per grant or $20 per square foot of leasable space, whichever is less.

Businesses opening in any part of College Park would be eligible for the grant. The Maryland Small Business Development Center (SBDC), located in College Park, has agreed to assist City staff with the program by reviewing applications that would include such things as a detailed business plan, financial documentation, and lease terms.

Grants will be targeted to locally-owned and independent businesses, specifically businesses that fill a void in the City’s retail scene such as a coffee shop, clothing store, sit-down restaurant, or bakery.

The Commercial Tenant Improvement Program was proposed after speaking with business owners, retail brokers, the SBDC, and cities across the country that implemented similar programs.

All of these parties indicated that leasehold improvements are one of the largest expenditures when opening a retail business and assistance with this issue would serve as a significant incentive. Additionally, a rough outline of the program was first presented to the Mayor and City Council during the annual Economic Development Report in May 2012, where City Council encouraged staff to pursue funding for the program.

The Council will vote next Tuesday’s Council meeting authorizing the City Manager to file a fiscal year 2013 Community Legacy application requesting $180,000 for the formation of a Commercial Tenant Improvement Program.

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