July 1, 2016

Partly sunny

Grant to help showcase city’s advantages

MEDINA — As the city’s new economic development director, Kimberly Rice said one of the first items topping her to-do list is to get a small business initiative in the form of training and technical assistance up and running.

“One of the challenges of small businesses is to make people appreciate what they have in Medina and getting them to support merchants here,” Rice said. “Just by going around the square to shop during the recent Ladies Night Out event, I was amazed at the wonderful things they have, things you can’t find at the big-box stores.”

Events like Ladies Night Out and the Chalk Art Festival promoted by the Main Street Medina organization help draw people to Public Square, with the hope they will return to patronize shops and restaurants, she said. It’s one way to showcase some of the items and services they offer.

To assist small businesses to use more technology and become more proficient at getting their name and products noticed, the city plans to initiate a program using a $40,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Development, with $15,000 of the money set aside for loans.

“It’s Community Development Block Grant money,” Rice said, explaining that her predecessor, Tom Krueger, applied for the micro enterprise program grant last summer, with grant approval awarded to the city Sept. 3. There is no matching fund requirement.

Attracting new businesses, filling vacant stores and developing land are important components of economic development, but “a big piece of the picture is business retention,” Rice said, adding a business-friendly government was essential to growth and expansion. “We focus first on businesses already here, businesses already loyal to the area, and help them expand if those businesses want to grow.”

The micro enterprise program will be a part of that by providing training and technical assistance to people who want to start, improve or expand a small business venture.

“The program is still being formulated, but we want to roll it out this fall, or winter at the latest,” Rice said. “We’re getting partners for the program in place. We’re in discussion with Akron’s Small Business Development Training, SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) and a few other organizations that can plug into the coursework that will be offered.”

Rice said the city will collaborate with the Medina County University Center in Lafayette Township to establish a nine-week course, with a two-hour class one night a week. There will be a fee to attend, Rice added.

The course will cover everything from defining and writing a business plan and learning about cash-flow analysis to marketing, human resource issues and government regulations.

“We’re looking at this as a springboard,” Rice said.

Anyone can sign up for the training and technical assistance, but the $15,000 earmarked for loans ranging between $2,000 and $10,000 will be allocated to city residents who complete the nine-week series of classes.

The loan portion of the program will target low-to-moderate income small business owners who have:

— a four-person household, a yearly adjusted gross income of $51,850 or less and a business that employs five or fewer people, including the owner; or

— a business with five or fewer employees, including the owner, with half of them at the $51,850 or lower income level, and an owner who may have had difficulty securing a traditional loan.

“The state would like to see two loans issued,” Rice said.

The grant is good for two years, and Rice said the city will explore ways to sustain funding and keep the program going.

Contact Judy A. Totts at jatotts1701@gmail.com.