Lumber City Development Corp. has partnered with the City of North Tonawanda to administer the Community Development Block Grant Microenterprise program, which includes dispersing $200,000 in funds toward small business growth in the city. This funding, provided by the New York State Office of Community Renewal and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, will further promote the economic development goals set forth by the city, while assisting entrepreneurial growth.
Recipients can use the funds toward many resources for their business, including furniture, fixtures, equipment, working capital and marketing money.
"The city is always looking for more opportunities for all types of business, both small and large, to thrive here in North Tonawanda," said North Tonawanda mayoral administrative assistant Peter Drossos on behalf of Mayor Arthur G. Pappas. "This initiative will help small business get off the ground and can really help the broader goal of revitalizing areas of the city once neglected. So it's a major positive for small business and, in turn, the city as a whole, by strengthening the economy overall."
Financial assistance in the amount of $5,000 to $35,000 will be awarded to startup and existing small businesses with five or fewer employees to aid in business costs and support job growth.
Priority will be given to businesses that further promote downtown development, create jobs (of low and moderate income), and small businesses that provide essential goods and services, as well as businesses located on Oliver Street.
"We kind of switched our focus to Oliver Street," said Laura K. Bernsohn, planning and development specialist at Lumber City Development Corp.
She said now seems like the right time to concentrate on the area, as the Oliver Street Merchants Association has been creating awareness about the street's small businesses, and a planning grant was recently awarded for the street.
Bernsohn said the microenterprise program has been offered to local North Tonawanda businesses in the past, "And we can really see the benefits of it."
Amy Sileo, owner of Sherwood Florist on Oliver Street, was a grant recipient in the past and knows firsthand how the funds can help foster a small business.
She was able to use grant money to improve the façade of her building as well as make other improvements to her business.
"It made the building stand out more; it's more noticeable on the street," Sileo said.
She said she often recommends other local businesses apply for grants through the LCDC.
"I tell people to go to Lumber City all the time, because there's things that they could probably (do to) help them with their business," she said.
Although there is a focus on Oliver Street businesses, other businesses (as well as those looking to set up shop) throughout North Tonawanda are welcome to apply, including those on Webster Street. Bernsohn said, for example, Webster's Bistro has participated in programs offered by the LCDC.
Overall, of new, local business owners, Bernsohn said, "We're happy that they decided to locate in North Tonawanda and we want to keep them here and help them in any way."
Those interested in participating in the microenterprise program can contact Bernsohn at 716-695-8580, ext. 5516. Grants are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Shown is the outside of the façade of Sherwood Florist, which was implemented with the help of grant money. (Photos by Lauren Zaepfel)