Council revives downtown business incubator incentive program

by Marianne Gasaway

The City Council has resurrected a business incubator plan for its downtown district.

Monday night the Council voted 5-0 to establish a business incubator program to support new retail and other business concepts.  The incentive program is available to ground floor, for-profit businesses.  It is geared to retail, or other business concepts that are new to downtown.

City officials stressed the program is exclusively for retail businesses and not open to food or hospitality ventures.

Qualifying businesses are eligible for maximum rental subsidy of $10,000 over 18-months.  Eighteen months of subsidized rent would adhere to the following schedule:

•Month one-six: 50 percent subsidy ($830 per month maximum)

•Month seven-12: 33 percent subsidy ($560 per month maximum)

•Month 13-18: 17 percent subsidy ($275 per month maximum)

In exchange, the business owner agrees to be open for normal business hours at least six days a week and will join the Chamber of Commerce and actively participate in Chamber business-related events.

Additional criteria in the program application include consideration of the building facade; those not consistent with the nostalgic theme of downtown may be excluded.  The building owner must also remain in continuous operation within the business district for three years from the opening date.  Franchise and chain business establishments are ineligible to participate in the program and consideration will be given to new businesses, new concepts by existing downtown retailers and expansion 

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