‘Little bit smarter, more helpful’

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Head 2 Toe Salon in Latonia was among the 30 businesses that received a Small Business Program incentive in the last year. 

City tweaks incentives that helped 30 small businesses last year

COVINGTON, Ky. - The City of Covington didn’t just talk about helping its small and new businesses in the fiscal year that ended June 30.
 
It spent money to underline its commitment.
 
To help 30 businesses with first-year rent and with exterior renovation projects during the year, the City awarded not only the full $150,000 budgeted for its Small Business Program (which itself doubled the allocation from the year before) but also an additional $22,000 it made available at the last minute.
 
Now the City is making small changes to the program designed to increase its impact on job creation and investment in Covington, as well as streamline the process for recipients.
 
“Each year we do this, we get a little bit smarter and more helpful to small businesses,” Economic Development Director Tom West said. “Our entrepreneurs and our neighborhood businesses are one of the best things about Covington, and the City is determined to help them succeed.”
 
The changes were recently approved by the Covington City Commission, which also approves the individual financial awards during the four rounds of funding during the year.
 
The application process for the two programs is competitive.
 
The Façade Improvement Program offers property owners forgivable loans of up to $6,000 to match investments in exterior renovations, such as painting, windows, lighting, awnings, brick work and signage. The Rent Subsidy Program pays up to half of a new business’s monthly rent for up to 12 months, with a cap of $500 a month, anytime during its first 18 months of operation.
 
Going forward: 
  • As a courtesy, the City will maintain a list of local contractors who do exterior work, since applicants receive extra “points” for use of Covington firms.
  • Applicants will be required to meet with the City’s Historic Preservation Specialist to discuss their project so as not to run afoul of various regulations, especially in historic overlay zones.
  • The City Manager will have the authority to extend the six-month window for exterior construction by three months if unforeseen circumstances (such as weather) delay the project. Previously, such an extension required approval by the City Commission, a process that took at least four weeks.
  • And the Economic Development Department has improved its application to streamline staff review and align that review with the ratings sheet. 
The Department also wants one day to change the application process to give bonus “points” to businesses owned by women, minorities, and veterans, in order to further increase the number of such awardees. It’s working with the City’s Legal Department to figure out how to make that happen.
 
Ross Patten, who oversees the program as Economic Development Project Manager, said the changes will make the application process more efficient and the incentives more effective.
 
Last year, the City extended the boundaries of the Small Business Program to make it citywide, and businesses came from nine neighborhoods. 
  • Among those receiving rent assistance were Lorenzo’s Deli, Alterations & More, Ripple Wine Bar, Head 2 Toe Salon, and Work Architecture and Design, Ltd. 
  • Among those receiving forgivable loans for façade improvements were Left Bank Coffeehouse, Victory Battery, The Bluegrass Barn, and Johnny Chu/Half & Half, LLC. 
The City received 25 applications in the fourth round alone, and City staff worked with many of those who did not receive incentives to improve their chances for the coming year. The recently approved City budget again sets aside $150,000 for the program.
 
“Covington is seeing a lot of momentum among its neighborhood businesses, and the word is getting out that the City wants to help you,” Patten said.

For more information about Covington’s Small Business Program, see HERE.
 
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