History: Thriving commercial main streets and small business districts provide important goods and services, create a sense of place, and help make communities desirable and productive. The success of business districts often requires coordinated efforts, including business recruitment, district marketing, enhanced wayfinding, streetscaping, façade improvement incentives, among other potential activities. Many suburban communities with smaller populations have insufficient resources and require financial assistance for these types of coordinated efforts.
The Business District Initiative supports suburban cities’ strategies to enhance the economic vitality of priority small business districts by providing up to $50,000 in funding assistance. To date, completed projects have leveraged $361,000 in additional public and private investment and have benefitted over 250 small businesses.
A competitive Request for Proposals (RFP) was released in February 2019. Communities were encouraged to develop proposals consistent with previously developed criteria (15-HCHRA-0006R1). Eligible strategies include, but are not limited to:
- business recruitment
- district-wide marketing, branding, and/or promotion initiatives
- district-wide wayfinding planning, design, and implementation
- technical assistance for business districts or individual businesses (including but not limited to special service district or business association establishment; financial, legal, or tax-related services; merchandizing, marketing, and social media assistance)
- small business incubators
- design and/or implementation of street furniture
- building façade improvements
Six proposals were received and reviewed by Hennepin County staff based on the following criteria:
- expected outcomes, impacts for businesses, and proposed metrics for tracking outcomes
- significance of the business district to the community
- need for financial assistance
- leverage of funds
- organizational capacity and plan for accomplishing the objectives
- demonstrated support from businesses and property owners
Three of the six proposals rated highly in terms of matching the goals of the program, timeliness, and capacity. These three recommended awards are described below:
City of Hopkins - Agreement PR00001170 for $10,000
The City of Hopkins will evaluate the feasibility and support for the establishment of a downtown business improvement district to support downtown Hopkins’ economic environment, maintain a viable downtown core, and continue to grow downtown’s population and jobs base. The City of Hopkins will fund consultant fees to implement project. This award anticipates approximately $3,000 in leverage through direct and in-kind investments by City of Hopkins.
City of St. Louis Park – Agreement PR00001171 for $50,000
The City of St. Louis Park will fund a façade improvement program for the Historic Walker Lake business district. The city recently initiated a streetscape and public realm plan for the area. The façade improvement program will build off these public improvements by incenting businesses to make investments in their buildings. This award anticipates approximately $50,000 in leverage through direct investments by City of St. Louis Park and a local match by participating businesses.
City of Wayzata - Agreement PR00001172 for $40,000
The City of Wayzata will develop a district-wide marketing, branding, and promotion initiative to correspond with multiple construction projects negatively impacting travel to its downtown. The city aims to work with the local Chamber of Commerce to contract with a marketing firm to develop a mitigation plan, provide project/program updates throughout the next 12 to 16 months, conduct door-to-door engagement and communications, and create and deliver a marketing and communications plan. This award anticipates approximately $50,000 in leverage through direct and in-kind investments by City of Wayzata and the Chamber of Commerce.
Contract terms include eligible expenditures, project milestones, and reporting of outcomes. Contracts will be reimbursement based.
Current Request: This request seeks authorization to negotiation three grant agreements totaling $100,000 under the Business District Initiative.
Impact/Outcomes: The authorization of these agreements will support economic vitality of business districts and strengthen small businesses in suburban Hennepin County. Combined, these awards leverage approximately $103,000 in matching investments by municipalities, businesses, and other organizations and will directly impact an estimated 85 to 100 businesses and indirectly impact an estimated 495 businesses in three suburban business districts.