Sweet Deals: Downtown Revitalization Grants Attract Small Businesses

The owners of Grandpa Joe’s Candy Shop know a sweet deal when they see it.

Thanks to a small business economic development grant provided by city officials, the specialty candy and soda shop was able to renovate an old existing building in downtown Middletown and expand to another Ohio location. With five destinations – two in Pittsburgh and three now in Ohio — the store owners hope to become a regional attraction for old-fashioned glass-bottled specialty sodas, homemade donuts, ice cream and a giant selection of confections.

Middletown officials used a $10,000 grant as an incentive for Grandpa Joe’s Candy Shop to re-invest and lease a 4,000 square-foot building that had been vacant for the past two years. For their part, the owners of Grandpa Joe’s Candy Shop are investing $75,000 of their own money into the building while creating four full-time and 12 part-time jobs and a new payroll of $310,000 to aid the local economy.

The upside of creating a busy downtown business districts is borne out by the numbers. More than 108 million consumers across the country spent $12.9 billion during Small Business Saturday, the shopping holiday following Black Friday designed to increase patronage at independently owned community enterprises. Nearly 80 percent of those shoppers say they do so specifically to support small businesses.

The problem for small businesses has always been generating or locating enough capital to support themselves through the early stages of development. Finding funding can be tenuous and challenging for even the most forward-thinking of these entrepreneurs.

To make things easier, MWBEzone, a service of GrantWatch, lists the funding resources to direct small businesses and startups through the complex maze of financing opportunities at the federal, state and private levels. The listings include upcoming programs and deadlines, project descriptions and eligibility requirements.

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of GrantWatch, said economic development agencies are eager to fund a wide spectrum of projects including downtown planning, affordable housing finance, technical assistance, capital infrastructure and workforce development that promote sustainable communities.

“Service sector business owners are important contributors to the economic base of any downtown district,” said Hikind. “And these businesses owners, in turn, have a vested interest in the success of the district and will serve as valuable ambassadors for the community.”

At each location, the owners say Grandpa Joes is committed to becoming an integral member of the local community. That means joining the Chamber of Commerce, sponsoring Little League teams, involvement in other activities and, in some cases, keeping the local staff that operated the store before.

Although government agencies provide most of the grants to small business owners looking to grow, Hikind said many corporations or large companies have a philanthropic division that offers financing opportunities to both for-profit and nonprofits servicing specific industries.

About the Author: Staff Writer for GrantWatch.com

Leave a Reply