May 22, 2020 | Innovation Lab: Tips for Implementing Gap Servicing ProjectsLeft: Donaldsonville, LA, Courtesy: Donaldsonville Downtown Development District; Right: Kendall Whittier District, Courtesy: Kendall Whittier Main Street Program
Earlier this week, we announced the recipients of the Grills Fund for Main Street Revitalization
, which will provide eight Accredited Main Street America Programs $10,000 each to help fund innovative revitalization efforts to address the current and/or legacy impacts of COVID-19. We wanted to give you the details on these creative responses to the effects of the pandemic so you can implement similar programs in your community. Keep reading to find out about how two Main Street communities plan to fill key service gaps to support their Main Street, and get tips to launch similar projects in your district.
With either no income or severely limited income, many businesses in Kendall Whittier are struggling to pay rent to property owners. To keep businesses viable, Kendall Whittier Main Street (KWMS) will offer a Rent Relief Program for business owners who either pay rent or mortgage on a Kendall Whittier property. If awarded, the grant will pay rent directly to the landlord that month. For businesses that own their property, the grant will pay the business and request proof of mortgage payment for the month. Applicants may apply monthly until funding is unavailable or for up to two months after reopening. By paying rent, KWMS hopes business owners can focus their limited money and attention on strategies to keep their businesses afloat.
Learn how to launch a similar relief program in your commercial district by reading the tips below:Make the rent relief grant process simple but meaningful:
Consider strategies to scale the program:
- The rent relief grant application will ask questions to assess the severity of the business’ need, response to adapting business models (such as developing e-commerce or selling marquee space), as well as other programs or assistance the business has sought out.
- A small task force will award grants based on need, as well as reward those businesses that have done everything they can to adapt and are still struggling.
Use the program to cultivate relationships with property owners:
- Kendall Whittier Main Street is working with local foundations to secure additional funding.
- While a rent relief program requires a large chunk of funding, it could be scaled to pay 50 or 25 percent of rent, which would still be helpful to small business owners and landlords.
- In the future, a rent relief program could grow into an emergency fund, which could be used in case of a fire, tornado or other natural disaster, or in the case of another pandemic, where businesses are forced to close temporarily.
- Many of the landlords in Kendall Whittier are locally owned, small businesses themselves, who have invested millions of dollars in transforming historic buildings and helping Main Street recruit suitable and ideal businesses. Nurturing relationships with them through a rent relief program will be valuable in the current landscape and in recovery.
- Kendall Whittier hopes the program will help leverage more participants in their “Friends” membership campaign once the economy bounces back.
In Donaldsonville, social distancing has been a challenge due to a lack of public transportation and delivery services in their small town. During the pandemic, many residents shopped often and waited in long lines, which contributed to positive COVID-19 cases. Donaldsonville Downtown Development District is hoping to make it easier for residents to social distance and inspire entrepreneurial approaches downtown by investing in a business that creates a localized food, grocery, prescription drug, and other essential needs delivery service. The delivery service will also create needed extra income for a small fleet of drivers providing the delivery services.
Keep reading to learn about how you can create a similar program in your district:Engage new entrepreneurs by holding a business competition:
Consider a range of strategies to fund and scale the business competition program:
- The district will hold a virtual business plan competition to select the delivery service small business plan and owner.
- Entrepreneurs will present a business plan and offer a virtual pitch to a panel of judges. The winning entrepreneur will be awarded $10,000 to start the delivery service, with the owner contributing up to $5,000 of their own investments.
- If the program is successful, the district may hold annual pitch competitions to meet and address community needs in the future.
- The district will use their partnerships with the local Chamber of Commerce to provide additional lending assistance to the winner, including the potential use of a micro-lending program.
- As the program grows, Donaldsonville Downtown Development District hopes to engage other micro-lenders and small business lenders, Chambers, and Small Business Development Centers.