Some businesses in College Park could receive up to $200,000 in grant money from the city’s business retention and attraction fund, city staff shared at a College Park City Council meeting Tuesday.
The retention and attraction fund was established as part of the city’s economic development plan for the 2024 fiscal year to help retain businesses in College Park. Michael Williams, College Park’s economic development director, said the fund’s goal is to help businesses wishing to stay in the city.
“We have a few [merchants] that cannot afford to stay anymore,” Williams said. “But we also have merchants that want to stay, and so we’ve been working very hard to get them some help to stay in the city.”
Tuesday’s discussion came on the heels of proposals for mixed-use developments in the city that could change its current business landscape. One development is set to replace the Campus Village Shoppes shopping center and another, if approved by the county, would displace Pho Thom, Ritchie’s Colombian Restaurant and Northwest Chinese Food.
The 2024 budget sets aside $75,000 for the business retention portion of the fund. Through additional funding aiming to attract, aid and resettle businesses in the city, Williams said individual businesses in the city will receive grants ranging from $15,000 to a possible $200,000.
According to District 3 council member Stuart Adams, about $515,000 in the fund still needs to be allocated, and businesses in Campus Village Shoppes will be prioritized.
“I’m optimistic that we will definitely see a tremendous return on investment for every dollar that we’re able to give them through that,” Adams said.
City staff are also finishing discussions on funding new businesses in the city, according to Williams — including ones that might move into existing shopping centers and vacant lots.
By providing grants for businesses, Williams said the fund also aims to improve job retention.
Council members also said the city could use the business retention and attraction funding to bring food trucks to Knox Road or an area near the College Park Fire Department. The city could consider temporary liquor licenses to food truck owners, District 2 council member Susan Whitney said.
Council members also praised the micro-financing aspect of the fund, where small businesses that otherwise wouldn’t have access to grant funding are prioritized.
“Micro-lending models can be very successful both in terms of sustainability of funds, but also inherently catalyzing small entrepreneurs,” District 3 council member John Rigg said.
Though the fund is helpful for some businesses, Williams hopes businesses also take advantage of other resources in the city’s economic development plan.
“Hopefully [the plan] provides them not just with money, but with knowledge, with resources that will not only keep them here, but help them grow and make smart decisions,” Williams said.