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Incentives give boost to seven small businesses

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The City is helping to fund façade improvements at 21 E. 32nd St., home to FunShine Child Care.

COVINGTON, Ky. - The City of Covington is giving seven small businesses help with first-year rent and façade improvements.

The incentives - representing the first round of funding through the City’s expanded and upgraded Small Business Program - were approved Tuesday night by the Covington City Commission on a series of 5-0 votes.
 
The incentives will benefit an eclectic group of businesses, consisting of a child-care facility, a wood-working shop, a historic tavern, a sporting goods store, a craft retail shop, a fitness and wellness center, and an event center.
 
The businesses are located downtown, in Latonia and in Lewisburg, although they technically come from five different Covington neighborhoods.
 
“We designed this program to focus on the smallest of small businesses,” Mayor Joe Meyer said. “These businesses are the backbone of our city, they give us our uniqueness and our creativity, and they give us the bulk of job creation over time.”
 
Economic Development Director Tom West said the Small Business Program is the City’s most popular incentive because it helps businesses and projects that typically don’t qualify for other incentives.
 
The City awarded $75,000 through its façade and rent subsidy programs last fiscal year but ran out of money well before the year was over, so for the current fiscal year West persuaded the City Commission to double the funds available to $150,000.
 
“We want to help as many small businesses as we can,” he said.
 
The City Commission also expanded the geographic area. Applicants used to be limited to the Downtown Business District and parts of Latonia. Now the whole City is eligible.
 
In all, 10 businesses applied for first-round funding. The three who did not receive funding were counseled on how to improve their applications and are being encouraged to apply next round, West said.
 
Three of the award recipients were given one-year rent subsidies ($500 a month for 12 months) to lessen the financial pressure on them as they establish roots. Four were given forgivable loans to help pay for improvements to their façades and exteriors.
 
The awards totaled $38,236.
 
Rent subsidies 
  • $6,000 for Chictore Boutique, a new event space at 531 Madison Ave. available for wedding receptions, birthday parties and bachelorette parties. The owner, Charae Parks, graduated from two entrepreneurship programs - Aviatra Accelerators and the Greater Cincinnati Microenterprise Initiative. It is creating two jobs. 
  • $6,000 for Handzy Shop + Studio, a retail shop at 15 W. Pike Street that sells locally produced art, stationary and jewelry. Handzy’s sales have grown since it opened in 2016, and owners want to expand into a vacant space next door with a $40,000 project that will create two jobs. 
  • $6,000 for Wellfit, a newly opened body and mind fitness center at 807 Madison Ave. that offers personalized training programs for both individuals and small groups, as well as fitness classes and motivational coaching. Owner HES Wellness - Health Energy and Strength LLC - is creating one new job. This was the first retail space filled in the renovated Madison Flats development. 
Façade Improvements 
  • $3,250 to owners Vance and Connie Wiegand for the building at 525 Madison Ave. that houses Egelston-Maynard, a long-established sporting goods store. The owners plan to paint the exterior of the building, remove rust and deteriorating pieces of the façade as part of a $6,500 project. 
  • $6,000 to Fessler Properties LLC for the building at 718 Pike St. that houses Herb & Thelma’s, a historic tavern. The owners plan to use local contractors to paint the exterior, repair windows, and add exterior lighting. The building is one of the first seen by drivers as they enter Covington along Dixie Highway from Park Hills. 
  • $6,000 to MW & MW Properties for the building at 21 E. 32nd St. that houses Fun Shine Child Care. The owners plan to use local contractors to remove and install a new storefront, lighting, an awning, signage and paint as part of a project worth over $12,000. 
  • $4,986 to Richard and Deborah Kennedy for the building at 9 W. Southern Ave. that houses Custom Woodworking Unlimited. The owners plan to use local contractors to install new awnings and a new door and repair soffits as part of a $9,972 project. 
This year’s incentives are the first awarded under a new evaluation system approved in June that identifies businesses that will bring the best return to the City and have the biggest positive impact on surrounding neighborhood business districts. 
  • A building owner that applies for a façade improvement loan is rated on whether the project is ready for construction, the ratio of matching funds, whether the work will be done by Covington contractors and suppliers, the visibility of the location, whether the building was previously vacant and for how long, and whether the project complements recent investment in the surrounding area. 
  • A business that applies for a rent subsidy will be rated on its visibility, the strength of its business plan and financial documentation, the number of jobs it will create, whether its product or service fills a need in the surrounding area and whether it complements the mix of businesses in that area.
 
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