Reading unveils small-business grant program for downtown

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The City of Reading as seen from above. (File photo)
The City of Reading as seen from above. (File photo)

Reading has launched the first of several programs designed to help attract businesses to its downtown and create a more business-friendly city.

Funded through Reading’s Community Development Block Grant program, the pilot Micro-Enterprise Assistance Grant program will offer grants for qualifying businesses operating in the city. The city hopes to advance its vision of increasing walkability and vibrancy in the downtown by attracting a variety of businesses that meet community needs, increase pedestrian traffic and complement other revitalization efforts.

“In addition to enhancing the health of businesses in the city, this Micro-Enterprise Assistance Grant works in tandem with the Main Street vision to increase the walkability and vibrancy of the City of Reading,” Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer said this morning. “Which will increase the health and economy of the city overall.”

To qualify for the MAG program, the business must have five or fewer employees, be owned by a low- or moderate-income person and have been in operation for at least one year. The business must be in the city, or the owner must be planning to relocate the business to a commercial space in the city.

The goal of the program is to provide business owners with financial and technical assistance that will result in business expansion and increased revenues, as well as economic development in the city and its downtown.

Each application will be reviewed by a committee and scored based on several criteria, including the business’ potential appeal to residents and visitors and its overall contribution to the Main Street vision.

To ensure that these businesses can be sustainable, they must submit a concise business plan along with the grant application. The Kutztown Small Business Development Center has been contracted by the city to provide expertise. Each grant recipient will work with the SBDC for one year after receiving the grant.

The city also plans to make grant and loan resources available to small-business owners who do not meet the requirements for the pilot MAG program. Business owners in Reading that do not qualify for this program are encouraged to contact the city’s Community Development Department at www.readingpa.gov, to see if they may qualify for alternate loan or grant programs, including those that are in development.

Jennifer Glose

Jennifer Glose

Reporter Jennifer Glose covers health care, Berks County and other topics. She can be reached at jenniferg@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 111. Follow her on Twitter @jenniferg_LVB and read her blog, “Networking,” at http://www.lvb.com/section/networking-blog.

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