BRISTOL - The Bristol Development Authority is looking to create a grant program to help new or existing small businesses.
In its meeting Nov. 27, the development authority unanimously voted to approve a request from the Board of Finance for $25,000 from the mayor’s economic development fund - which is to be eliminated and the funds handled by the development authority - to start a small business grant program.
“Right now, we don’t have an effective mechanism for helping the small to mid-size businesses,” Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu said in the meeting. “A lot of attention is focused on retention and recruitment, but the small guy - you know, really the backbone of some of our economy; don’t really have a true path for those small projects that will greatly enhance their ability to service their customers, expand their customer base, or to get to that next point with their business plan.”
In the last six months about half a dozen small businesses have reached out to the development authority for assistance and it was unable to help, said Justin Malley, executive director of the development authority.
“There have been too many times we’ve had to tell a business we don’t have a program for you,” he said. “For many years, the BDA staff has not had the ability to offer smaller businesses assistance or financial assistance for smaller projects. All of our programs were really defined for larger projects, hiring opportunities and a lot of reliance on tax revenue payback - and that’s great, but the problem is in reality we have so many small retailers and businesses.”
The grants would help new or existing small businesses with projects such as construction projects, design improvements, signage and other small projects, Malley explained, adding that the development authority is also looking to have the businesses match the city’s contribution.
“I don’t think grants would go above $5,000,” he said. “They’d be reserved for these smaller projects that in the end will really be helping a smaller business, potentially keeping them in business, keeping employees there, and keeping the Bristol residents who patronize these businesses.”
Zoppo-Sassu noted that the grants should be designated to fixed assets of a business.
“It has to be a fixed asset, because we have had issues in the past with some businesses that have not unfortunately been successful and have sold items that were really funded with some of our money,” she said.
Lorenzo Burgio can be reached at 860-973-5088 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Lorenzo Burgio on Twitter @burgioBP.