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Retail Entrepreneurs Wanted

03/08/2016
Retail Entrepreneurs Wanted

Prospective business owners can access downtown retail space, capital and professional support under the auspices of a brand new program in the city of Allentown!

Details of the “Retail Mosaic” were announced at a morning news conference at assembly88 in the 500 block of Hamilton Street by representatives of Upside Allentown, Community Action Development Corporation of Allentown, 7th Street Main Street program, Hamilton District Main Street program, Rising Tide Community Loan Fund, Allentown Chamber of Commerce, the city of Allentown and the downtown Allentown business community.

The goal of the program is to open ten new retail locations within the Upside Allentown area by the end of this summer.

In a “Shark Tank-like” competition, prospective retailers will compete to win access to readily available space, up to $15,000 in forgivable loans and a network of professional support at discounted rates valued at approximately $5,000, including a certain number of free hours for each of the professional services. Qualified applicants must create at least two full time jobs that meet low-to-moderate income requirements. The funding comes from the city of Allentown’s federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) allocation.

“There has been tremendous growth downtown,” said Santo Napoli, the owner of assembly88, The Archive and New York Urban, all in the downtown. “There are thousands of employees and arena patrons to create enormous foot traffic. This program has been created to help those entrepreneurs who want to take advantage of a fantastic opportunity.”

According to Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, “the Retail Mosaic is a great use of the city’s CDBG funds. The money can be used to acquire new or used machinery and equipment directly related to the business process. The owner must create two full time equivalent jobs within three years which can be held by city residents who meet the low/moderate income guidelines.”

“The Retail Mosaic is a collaborative effort on the part of a number of committed partners,” said Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce Senior VP, Allentown Initiatives Miriam Huertas. “This is a chance to reactivate underutilized properties and increase opportunities for area residents to find employment.”

Interested persons may apply on-line at http://upsideallentown.com/retail-mosaic/. Applicants will be pre-screened based on a commitment to create jobs and a solid business plan. A maximum of up to 20 applicants will be invited in for an elevator pitch, “Shark Tank-like” interview. The final awards will be given to the top ten prospects based on fit, need for services, credit worthiness and uniqueness to the downtown.

Led by the Hamilton District Main Street program, awardees will have access to the Retail Mosaic’s “incubator without walls.” A committee of competent and devoted professionals, the “ecosystem,” will provide pro-bono and reduced rate support in areas that are essential for business creation, launch and development.

The city has compiled an inventory of clustered retail space within the Upside Allentown footprint that includes the 700 to 1000 blocks of Hamilton, Linden and Walnut streets and Seventh, Eighth, Ninth and 10th streets. It includes areas commonly referred to as Jordan Heights, Old Fairgrounds, Seventh Street District, Old Allentown Historic District, Allentown Promise Neighborhood and the Hamilton District. The space is tenant ready within the parameters of 650-2000 square feet at market rate costs of $8.00 to $20.00 per square foot.

Digital Feast at 840 Hamilton Street has created the website and a 2:30 contained video to promote the “Retail Mosaic” program. The site contains the names, companies and services that make-up the “ecosystem” that is available to assist the entrepreneurs. Information will be shared with up to 700,000 people on Facebook and more than 6500 members on Upside Allentown’s distribution list.

Billboard space has been generously donated by Adams Outdoor Advertising and Sterner Outdoor Advertising to help promote the competition.

Allentown Business Development Manager Bernadette DeBias said, “In my entire professional career covering more than 20 years in two states, I have never witnessed a group of business and community leaders give so generously of their time and talent. Organizations that weren’t even directly involved lent their expertise. The development of this program has resulted in not only a great product, but a selfless cohesion of people and businesses, because they believe in it, and Allentown.”

Interested persons with questions on the application process can email retailmosaic@allentownpa.gov.

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