‘Open for Business in Chestertown’ Program Announces Loans for Lemon Leaf, CREATE art.craft.design

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The Open for Business in Chestertown program is pleased to announce that four loans were granted for the 2016 Spring cycle.

The Greater Chestertown Initiative/Open For Business in Chestertown and the SFW Foundation are working together to support new and expanding businesses that will ensure continued economic growth in Chestertown. Open for Business was designed to provide “kickstarter” funding for new or expanding businesses with the goal of filling storefronts in the downtown district. All of the interest free loans made in this cycle were earmarked to defray a portion of the costs needed for remodeling construction.

Create Photo 2John R. Alfree, Jr.
Just Right Enterprises, LLC
Lemon Leaf Cafe

Rob Glebe
Rob Glebe Design
CREATE art.craft.design

Faith Wilson
Faith Wilson Art
CREATE art.craft.design

Robert Ortiz
Robert Ortiz Studios
CREATE art.craft.design

The loan to JR Alfree enabled him to install new air conditioning and heating for his recently purchased building. This will substantially reduce energy costs for the Lemon Leaf and JR’s Past Time Pub on High Street. Three smaller loans were approved for Rob Glebe, Bob Ortiz and Faith Wilson to be used to remodel the space for their new gallery – CREATE art.craft.design – scheduled to open in mid-May on Cross Street. As the interest-free loans are repaid, the money will remain in the Open for Business fund allowing the loan program to benefit businesses well into the future.

The GCI, currently chaired by Lani Seikaly, is an informal and independent coalition of leaders of organizations both non-profit and for-profit, community associations and government agencies, Washington College and other interested groups and individuals. The major work of GCI last year was to advocate for and support the town’s successful application for an Arts & Entertainment District designation from the Maryland State Arts Council. The SFW Foundation recognizing the importance of a designated person to move the initiative forward provided matching funds for an economic development director’s position in Chestertown’s budget for FY2015. The matching funds moved the position from a part time one to full time. In September 2015, Kay MacIntosh was selected to serve as the Economic Development and Marketing Coordinator for Chestertown.

Carla Massoni, chairman of the Open for Business application and review process, invites entrepreneurs to apply for loans to offset the costs of starting a new business, to expand an existing business or to relocate operations to Chestertown. While the businesses must be physically located in Chestertown, business owners are not required to live in Kent County to apply. For more about information about Open for Business loans and an online application, see openforbusinessinchestertown.com.

Open For Business In Chestertown

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The Greater Chestertown Initiative (GCI) announced the formation of a new program – Open for Business in Chestertown – at their May 4th meeting. Open for Business is designed to provide “kickstarter” funding for new or expanding businesses with the goal of filling empty storefronts in the downtown.

Open for Business will invite entrepreneurs to submit requests for funding and through a juried process select those deemed most promising. Awards will be made in the form of matching funds and virtually interest free loans. The first cycle of funding is planned for Fall 2015 although applications will be considered as they are received.

Carla Massoni, who made the announcement at the May GCI meeting, said that she had been contacted by a couple who loved Chestertown and wanted to give back to the community but wished to remain anonymous.

The SFW Foundation (501c3) was created through their efforts to fund these business incentives. The Foundation has asked the Greater Chestertown Initiative to monitor the process of soliciting and reviewing applicants for the program. A review committee will evaluate applications and refer to the Foundation for final consideration the business proposals they recommend for funding.

The GCI, currently chaired by Lani Seikaly is an informal and independent coalition of leaders of organizations both non-profit and for-profit, community associations and government agencies, Washington College and other interested groups and individuals. The major work of GCI this year was to advocate for and support the town’s application for an Arts & Entertainment District designation from the Maryland State Arts Council. Other initiatives this past year included creating additional tourist events and additional Saturday and Sunday activities for First Friday weekends.

The Foundation has already pledged $25,000 in matching funds for the economic development director’s position in Chestertown’s budget for FY2015. The matching funds would move the position from part time to full time. GCI will work closely with the new economic development director to develop more tourist and community events and will serve as the major advisory committee for the proposed Arts & Entertainment District.

Michael Day Talks to GCI about Economic Development and Main Street

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Michael Day, Economic and Community Development Director in Berlin and former Main Street Director, will speak to the Greater Chestertown Initiative and other interested participants at 1:00 on Friday, September 5 at Town Hall about his experience in developing downtown Berlin. This meeting will replace our usual first Monday GCI meeting for September.

Berlin Mayor Gee Williams called Day “the spark that Berlin needed” to get to the next level of economic vitality. “If you tried to point to one individual who has made the most significant difference in helping Berlin move forward economically in the last few years, that person would clearly be Michael Day,” he said. “It was just the right combination of his life experience, his experience with government, his experience with business and his ability to explain and persuade people to work together.”

Berlin’s downtown has filled up since Day joined the town hall staff. Since 2012, there has hardly been a vacancy on Main Street. He credits the commercial interest in the town – which is Budget Travel’s 2014 Coolest Small Town in America – to its vibrancy and the preservation efforts that have been made in the historic town.

Berlin has also been designated a Maryland Arts and Entertainment Center and has a Maryland Main Street Program. The Main Street concept –a state-sponsored program of strengthening the economic potential of traditional Main Streets and neighborhoods in order to improve the economy, appearance and image of those districts – has long been a passion for Day.

Though Day has announced his retirement, he expects Berlin’s success to continue in the future, particularly now that economic development is a permanent part of the town’s budget. “I don’t think we would have gotten to this point if the town hadn’t hired someone full time,” he said. “We’re lucky we’ve got a mayor and council with vision.”

Join us on September 5 to hear Michael Day and learn about Berlin’s experience and economic success that would be useful to us.

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