Lynchburg grant program helps small businesses grow, relocate and thrive

The Local Redevelopment Program of the Lynchburg Office of Economic Development and Tourism has just completed its 10th round of local business incentives.

The Free Clinic of Central Virginia used some of the grant money to upgrade its patient waiting room on Main Street.

Photo provided

The program is designed to support small to medium scale investments in commercial real estate in the city of Lynchburg and supports a portion of eligible expenses.

“By assisting landowners and business owners with real estate and capital investment projects, the Office of Economic Development and Tourism is able to reduce vacancy rates, revitalize areas and increase the city’s tax base,” said EMCDDA Director Marjette Upshur.

This year, $150,000 has been awarded to support 18 local businesses through the local redevelopment program, creating and retaining nearly 200 jobs and mobilizing $13.7 million in capital investment across the city, Upshur said. .

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The Local Redevelopment Program is designed to assist landowners and business owners with real estate and capital investment projects, reducing vacancy rates, revitalizing designated areas and increasing the tax base of the city,” said Alisha Meador, head of economic development for the EMCDDA.

Winners include Schewels Home, Buff City Soaps, Timberlake Station and Mi Patron in Boonsboro.

“Economic investments are an essential part of a city’s continued growth and advancement,” she said. “With the majority of our local businesses – about 70% – having 10 or fewer employees, investments are not always large enough to qualify for state-level grants.”

The River Ridge Mall applied for and received a grant for major redevelopment and renovations to the property.

“We used this grant to offset a very small portion of the overall East End redevelopment expense, which began in 2019 with the demolition of the old Sears,” said Melissa Faria, general manager. “The East End, which includes Dick’s Sporting Goods, will also include notable retailers such as HomeGoods currently under construction.”

Nicole Davidson, co-owner of The Batter Bar, a creperie at 1225 Main Street, said she started looking for grants when she moved the business from its old location on Church Street.

“We got a few quotes for the renovation of this space and there were quite a few things that we had to sort out adding plumbing, redoing the floors and as it was an older building, it was quite expensive,” she said. “So at that point we started looking for all the different types of grants that could help us with the cost of the project in some way.”

Dough bar 1

When The Batter Bar, pictured here on November 11, moved from Church Street to Main Street, it used a local grant scheme to help pay for building and renovation costs as well as repairing floors and windows.

Paige Dingler, News and Advance

Davidson contacted the city’s economic development and tourism office who informed her of the local redevelopment grant she could apply for.

The grant money was used to cover construction and renovation costs as well as repairing floors and windows.

“It helped open doors for us and without it I don’t know if we could have rocked the movement or not,” she said. “It was super helpful.”

The Free Clinic received $15,000 from the program and used it for its $700,000 renovation to its offices at 1016 Main Street.

Ula Kauppi, director of development at the Free Clinic of Central Virginia, said the renovations included opening up the lobby, which was cramped before, adding new ceilings, light fixtures, flooring, painting and updating the examination rooms. He also took office space and created a classroom.

“What we found was that it really improved patient flow, patient confidentiality, coordination of care, which were all goals we had,” she said. “Our patients love the improved environment.”

Kauppi said it’s important to the clinic that a patient’s experience is equal to, if not better than, any other doctor’s office in town.

“Just because you come here and get your care for free doesn’t mean it should be uncomfortable, and we’ve had a lot of positive patient feedback and feel like we’ve accomplished that,” she said. .

Meador said the program has helped companies invest in expanding their spaces, creating safer environments for their employees, adding necessary updates to facilities and infrastructure, and retrofitting older buildings.

“From infrastructure needs like HVAC and plumbing, to aesthetics like renovating and expanding existing spaces, this program has helped over 100 local businesses over the past 10 years,” he said. she stated.

Ryan H. Bowman