A major hurdle for many potential business owners is access to up-front capital. Enid Regional Development Alliance wants to make that a little easier.
ERDA Board Chairman Jim Stallings said board members, during a recent planning retreat, discussed their purpose and determined they should be helping the downtown business district as part of their mission.
To that end, ERDA is beginning a program that will award up to three $5,000 grants a year to downtown business owners who apply and are approved by a committee of ERDA members. The funding is for new and expanding businesses in the downtown area, which is described as Elm on the north to Garriott on the south, and Adams on the west to the railroad tracks east of 2nd on the east.
“Our mission is not just smokestacks and large job manufacturing,” said Brent Kisling, ERDA executive director. “Part of our mission is jobs, part is manufacturing and part is retail.”
Deadline for applications for the funding is May 1, and recipients will be announced by June 1, Kisling said. For information, call Jacque Burris at 233-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We look at a lot of deals, and our organization is made up of both public- and private-sector board members,” Stallings said. “This could be a way to help start-up type businesses, since the failure rate of new businesses is so high.”
Some criteria have been established for awarding the grants, including:
• Does the business bring people to the downtown area?
• Will it increase sales tax revenues to the city?
• Will it keep people downtown after 5 p.m.?
• Is the business unique, and does it contribute to creating a vibrant downtown space?
Applications should include a comprehensive business plan of no more than 10 pages, current and projected balance sheet and income statements, and a brief paragraph discussing how the money will be used. Applicants may be asked to make a presentation to members of the ERDA board.
Kisling and Stallings said they have not seen this type of business recruitment model done anywhere else. However, Stallings said the Stillwater downtown re-formed around a popular new restaurant. From that popularity, he said, additional businesses began to open, including other restaurants and venues that bring people downtown after hours.
“We want people to think downtown to start a business,” Stallings said. “From a financial standpoint, we haven’t seen it before.”
Among the ideas mentioned for new businesses are a downtown bookstore, a unique gift shop or other businesses. No one is exempted, he said. The idea is to encourage people to be downtown after 5 p.m.
“There are lots of people thinking of starting a business, and they don’t know where to start,” Kisling said. “They can call ERDA, and we will work with them and get them with the (James W. Strate Center for Business Development) and do a business plan.”
Stallings said the idea is to appeal to a target audience of people considering opening or expanding a business.
“It’s not our intent to hand out money, but to leverage it into businesses,” Stallings said. “The quality of the business plan will be important, not just someone who has an idea.”