Mayor Brennan Unveils Economic Development Initiatives
Mayor Brennan Unveils Economic Development Initiatives
Business visitation, job creation and streamlining of city operations cornerstones to grow plans
PORTLAND, Maine – At a press conference this afternoon, City of Portland Mayor Michael Brennan unveiled a number of new initiatives designed to spur economic grow and job creation. The programs support the goals of the city’s Economic Development Vision and Plan, which was adopted by the City Council last fall. The initiatives including a Business Visitation Program and other programs designed to create economic prosperity through the growth of the city's tax and employment base by building upon Portland's strengths, its quality of life, creative economy, local assets and opportunities for expansion. The Mayor also identified partners in the city’s initiative by announcing the creation of the Economic Development Vision and Plan stakeholder group including representatives from the Portland Community Chamber, Greater Portland Economic Development Corporation, Portland Downtown District, Greater Portland Convention and Visitors Bureau, Creative Portland, League of Young Voters and local business leaders.
"The city’s economic development plan provided us with a blue print for the future and with today’s announcements, we begin to lay the brick and mortar,” stated Mayor Brennan. “For the City of Portland to realize its full potential, we need to be working in concert with one another. Whether it’s the Chamber or a neighborhood group or a business just starting up, we need to realize that we share the same goals because our quality of life goes hand in hand with our economic prosperity. My confidence in our future success is buoyed by the fact that the development and implementation of these initiatives has been a team effort with diverse groups working collaboratively for our future.”
Held at the location of the city’s first participant in the Business Visitation Program, InterMed, Mayor Brennan discussed the benefits of the Business Visitation Program in helping the city retain local businesses and support efforts to expand. As outlined in the Economic Development Plan and Vision, the business visitation program is designed to ensure that the city in partnership with the Greater Portland Economic Development Corporation receives regular feedback from the business community. This feedback will be used to adjust economic strategies and activities and through this outreach, local businesses will become better informed of resources and opportunities available at City Hall. Yesterday, Mayor Brennan, the city’s economic development team and members the Mayor’s implementation stakeholder group conducted their second visit at Apothecary by Design, also located in the Bayside neighborhood. Business visits will be scheduled throughout the year with at least two a month.
“Hearing directly from local businesses is key as this feedback helps city and community leaders better understand the needs and concerns of the business community,” remarked Brennan. “In our meeting with InterMed, we heard first-hand how important the city’s quality of life is to a local business. We also learned of the challenges recruiting high skilled labor and opportunities we may have to support their efforts to expand their workforce.”
Mayor Brennan shared plans to streamline the city’s permitting process and review time frame for local planning approvals with the hiring of Jared Clark with Government Consulting Group. Clark will conduct a comprehensive review of the city’s development application and permitting processes to identify areas for improvement and other efficiencies.
“Our residents and businesses need to served efficiently and timely to support their investment in Portland. City leaders and staff welcome the opportunity to learn about new approaches to delivering these development services,” stated Brennan.
Mayor Brennan also discussed the launch of the Business Assistance Program for Job Creation (BAP), a second round of funding for the city’s Façade Improvement Program as well as several grant and loan programs available to support local business and entrepreneurs. BAP was designed to help create jobs for low and moderate income Portland residents. The grant program offers funding to entrepreneurs hoping to start a business as well as local businesses looking to expand. Grants up to $20,000 will be available to Portland businesses for projects that will spur job creation such as building renovation, leasehold improvements, and purchase of machinery and equipment.
To qualify for BAP, businesses and entrepreneurs will need to create at least one job for every $10,000 in grant funds they receive as well as match the grant amount dollar for dollar with private investment in the project. All jobs created should benefit low and moderate income Portland residents. Business owners applying for a grant will be expected to fund at least half of the required private match with their own equity investment. The remaining amount can be funded through a business loan from a bank, credit union or other financing agency, including the city’s Revolving Loan Program.
High priority will be placed on applications that meet one or more of the following:
a) Provide on the job training to new hire(s), which teaches a new job skill;
b) Business located in a Housing and Community Development eligible neighborhood, within walking distance of or easily accessible by public transportation to an eligible neighborhood;
c) Private match is greater than the grant amount requested;
d) Job creation will exceed the basic requirement of one full-time job for every $10,000;
e) Creates quality jobs; and,
f) Financially stable applicant.
The Façade Improvement Program will begin this summer and will provide grant funding and design assistance to property and business owners for the purpose of renovating commercial storefronts and replacing deteriorated or poor quality commercial signs and awnings. The goals of the program are to enhance the appearance of commercial streetscapes, encourage private investment in the improvement of storefronts, signs and awnings, reduce vacancies and strengthen the character of historic buildings. The program will continue to support the revitalization of Congress Street with an expansion of the boundaries for qualifying properties to as far east as Washington Avenue and as far west as Weymouth Street. Businesses that took advantage of this program previously include Coffee by Design, Port City Music Hall and the Public Market House.
Additionally, Mayor Brennan noted grant awards that have recently been made through the Portland Economic Development Plan Implementation Programs (PEDPIP) and additional funding available through the program. PEDPIP is designed to help local non-profits and public entities implement the City's Economic Development Vision and Plan with grants up to $75,000. PEDPIP grants will fund efforts to evaluate economic development opportunities, business recruitment activities with a focus on certain industries, marketing plans/strategies for the city, and programs designed to enhance the climate and access to downtown business districts. PEDPIP grants have been awarded for several projects including the development of a Portland brand, the redesign of Creative Portland’s website, a networking program for the creative community and planning for the Portland Performing Arts Festival.
Finally, Mayor Brennan highlighted the city's ongoing Revolving Loan Program (RLP), which provides commercial loans to Portland businesses to facilitate economic growth and job creation. Loans are made to all types and sizes of businesses, from the smallest establishment to the largest corporation and range from as much as $250,000 to as little as a few thousand dollars. Presently the City has 23 active loans to Portland businesses totaling $1,380,694.
The City’s Economic Development Division will administer these grant and loan programs, while the Portland Development Corporation, the city’s loan and grant board, will have final decision-making authority in approving loan and grant awards. For more information and details about the programs, visit the city's website.