Small-business program: Record activity

Proposed small-business incentive awards during the fourth round of funding come from nine neighborhoods – fulfilling the City’s goal of spreading out the economic energy.

Officials find extra money to fund 12 projects across Covington 

COVINGTON, Ky. - Eager to help its small businesses, the City of Covington over the last two years has quadrupled the money it sets aside for first-year rent subsidies and exterior improvement incentives.
But given the surge of businesses wanting to invest in the City, suddenly even that increase isn’t enough.
“Not remotely,” said Ross Patten, the City’s Economic Development Project Manager, who oversees the Small Business Program. “We were kind of the victim of our own success.”
In the first three rounds of funding this fiscal year, the City had awarded $107,523 to 18 projects, leaving $42,477 for the fourth and final round. But in that round, timed for the April-June quarter, the City received 25 applications requesting some $126,000.
So the City looked under a proverbial rock and found about $22,000 in additional funds for the program. As a result, Covington is poised to give financial help to 12 more businesses in the fourth round of funding, about twice as many as it anticipated being able to help.
“That’s pretty exciting,” Patten said, “especially since many of them came from outside the traditional urban core. We expanded the program’s eligibility to include the entire City last year in an attempt to spread energy outside the traditional downtown business district, and it looks like it’s working.”
This past Tuesday night, Economic Development Director Tom West gave short presentations on the 12 recommended awards to the Covington City Commission, complete with a map that showed the spread-out locations of the businesses.
“The word’s getting out, so we’re seeing more interest and activity in our neighborhood business districts,” West explained.
Signaling its approval, the Commission added all 12 recommendations to its consent agenda for next Tuesday, June 11.
The recommendations:
The rent subsidy program reimburses first-year businesses for half of their rent (up to $500 a month, for 12 months) to lessen the financial pressure on them as they establish roots.
The City received six applications for rent subsidies and is recommending approval for four: 
  • $6,000 to Ripple Wine Bar at 4 West Pike St., which recently opened in a space that sat vacant for 12 years. West said the bar - which offers wines from around the world and is owned by Matt and Kathleen Haws - has created 17 jobs and hopes to create eight more. 
  • $5,580 to Strange Stock Art Conservation, a niche shop that provides preservation services related to the repair and care of works on paper and photographic materials. It’s expanding from a small location in Latonia to 315 E. 15th St. after originally coming from San Francisco. West said the owner, Laura Moeller, is the only person in private practice in a 200-mile radius to receive peer-reviewed “Professional Associate” status from the American Institute for Conservation Professional Associate. 
  • $6,000 to Lorenzo’s Deli, a home-style deli locating at 806 Madison Ave. Its kitchen will provide healthy “To Go” meal prep services, provide monthly catering classes to underserved youth and adults, and be available to rent. It will start with two workers and hopes to add five to 10 more. 
  • $4,800 to Alterations & More, a new seamstress shop at 3702 Decoursey Ave. (at Ritte’s Corner) that offers services related to alterations, embroidery, tailoring, dry cleaning and laundry. It has two workers and hopes to add one or two more. 
The façade improvement program offers forgivable loans (up to $6,000) for façade and exterior improvements. The overall cost of the project must be at least double the loan.
The City received 19 applications and is recommending approval for eight: 
  • $6,000 to Lucky Twins LLC to restore the historic storefront at 268 Pike St. The $33,000 project includes fixing the missing paneling and glass storefront, repairing the slate roof and wood windows and repainting the brick. 
  • $6,000 to Earl L. and Mary M. Weller for 1502 Russell St. The $18,000 project includes tuck-pointing and repainting the brick exterior of Victory Battery. 
  • $6,000 to Corner Store Project LLC to restore the exterior of the first-floor commercial space at 2120 Eastern Ave. The $19,500 project will include repainting, repairing and replacing windows, installing new doors, repairing the brick parapet on the garage, and installing new lighting. 
  • $6,000 to The Point Arc of Northern Kentucky, Inc. for façade work at 43 W. Pike St. The $21,000 project will include replacing the awning and storefront window and installing a garage door to open the coffee shop up to sidewalk visitors. 
  • $6,000 to The Center for Great Neighborhoods to rehab the exterior of 302 W. ML King Jr. Blvd. to prepare it to house a Mexican restaurant. The $29,000 project will include new windows, doors, paint, and siding. 
  • $6,000 to RP PROP OZ, LLC for work at 115 Park Place. The $41,500 exterior restoration of the three-story building will include removing non-historic wood trim to expose the historic brick, replacing the window and doors, repairing the brick molds, tuck-pointing and painting. 
  • $850 to Russell and Jacqueline Slone for work at 701 Greenup St., the home of Left Bank Coffeehouse. The $1,700 project includes installing six bullet-style floodlights and lights to highlight the business sign on the front of the building. 
  • $4,804 to Amerasia Café & Bar LLC to enhance the façade at 521 Madison Ave., the home of KungFood Chu’s AmerAsia restaurant. The $9,608 project will expand the restaurant’s space by moving the façade toward the street and flush with the storefront while installing modern aluminum framing and energy-efficient glass panels and entrances. 
West noted that the businesses come from nine neighborhoods: Old Town/Mutter Gottes, Helentown, Eastside, Ritte’s East Latonia, MainStrasse Village, Westside, Wallace Woods, Central Business District, and Licking Riverside.
Applicants who were not funded are being encouraged to apply during the next round, and City staff is working with them to improve their applications. For example, the scoring process favors those who create jobs, will help their surrounding communities, and that use local contractors.

Alterations & More recently opened at Ritte’s Corner.

The Point Arc of Northern Kentucky, Inc. plans to install a “garage door” opening at its coffee shop at 43 W. Pike St.

Corner Store Project LLC is restoring the exterior of the first-floor commercial space at 2120 Eastern Ave.

The brick exterior of Victory Battery at 1502 Russell St. will be tuck-pointed and painted.

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