While the crisis mode of the COVID 19 pandemic has thankfully ended, the negative economic fallout is still a challenge for Moline and the local economy as a whole. City leaders here are launching a new program, funded with $1.1 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars with the goal of supporting long-term, sustainable business growth in every corner of Moline.
Aimed squarely at small business owners and budding entrepreneurs, the program is called B.O.O.S.T, which stands for Business Owner Occupied Stabilization Transformation. It will be spearheaded by the city’s Community and Economic Development Department, with assistance from an outside business consultant to be selected no later than February 2023.
The main goals of B.O.O.S.T are:
- Business acceleration
- Repurpose and fill vacant store fronts
- Revitalize struggling business district
- Maintain and create employment opportunities
- Provide opportunities for entrepreneurs
- Support a vibrant community that is a travel destination
While the program will provide direct funding in the form of small business forgivable loans to both brick and mortar, home-based and mobile businesses, it will also require applicants to attend business-building workshops, work with program mentors and create a business plan as part of the program application process.
“The idea is to support long-term business growth, not just write checks,” said KJ Whitley, Moline’s Community Development Manager. “There is a learning curve to opening or expanding a business. The program’s foundation includes mandatory educational workshops and follow up mentorship that will assist our seasoned and future business owners be successful in there endeavors. We are reinvesting in our community and the people in our community. We are also trying to fill some of these vacant storefronts.”
The B.O.O.S.T program will also target specific economically challenged areas of the city such as the Illinois 92 corridor, 15th and 16th street commercial corridor, Avenue of the Cities, Olde Town and Uptown and the SouthPark Mall area.
Eligible businesses include those with less than 50 full-time equivalent employees that are independently owned and operated and based in Moline. Eligible businesses must be actively operational or will be operational within 10 days of receiving assistance and remain operational for at least two years.
Full details on eligibility requirements and what types of businesses are non-eligible can be found HERE.
Loans of $10,000 to $80,000 will be available, based on the size and type of business. A panel made up of CED staff and the business consultant will review submitted applications monthly for program eligibility. The educational workshops are required prior to applications being approved. Part of the classroom education will include a course on how to write a business plan. Activities eligible for loan support include:
- Purchase of business signage
- Purchase of new or used machinery, equipment or features
- Purchase of business inventory, supplies or furniture
- Business marketing
- Business insurance
- Rehab improvements
- Lease (rent) payments up to a max of six months
- Business mortgage payments up to a max of six months
- Utilities such as gas, electric, cable, internet and phone
- Working capital
Whitley said the B.O.O.S.T program seeks to help the city achieve four of City Council’s strategic goals: establishing a small business mentoring program, establishing a start-up business accelerator program, launching an interior grant program and creation of a small business assistance loan program.
A request for proposals seeking a business consultant is scheduled to go out in December. The goal is to begin business workshops in March of 2023. BOOST applications will be accepted in March of 2023. Applications will be awarded until funds are exhausted.
Questions can be directed to KJ Whitley, Community Development Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org, 309-524-2044.