City of Columbia announces new Main Street business loan program

Businesses in Columbia have an opportunity to join Main Street’s resurgence courtesy of a new program offered by the city. The Office of Business Opportunities on Tuesday unveiled its Main Street Capital program, which will offer loans to increase the number of retail stores in the district.

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin speaks to a crowd about the new Main Street Capital program in front of Bourbon (photo by Kelly Petty).

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin speaks to a crowd about the new Main Street Capital program in front of Bourbon. (photo by Kelly Petty)

“With nearly $1 billion in new investment in less than three years and landmark successes like the Hub and Agape, there’s no doubt that something special is happening in Downtown Columbia,” said Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin. “This new initiative will help us take that momentum and create a critical mass of activity that raises Main Street to the next level.”

Designed around a mission of “creating more feet on Main,” start-up or existing retail businesses on or planning to set up shop on Main Street between Elmwood and Gervais streets, are eligible to apply for loans of up to $50,000 based on plans for growth and expansion.

The business office is giving special incentive to applicants in or planning to move to the 1300, 1400, 1500 and 1600 blocks of Main Street. The city is seeking businesses in home decor and furnishings, arts and culture, apparel and accessories and eateries.

Tina Herbert, executive director of the Office of Business Opportunities, said the loan program is to increase the amount of retail to attract a vibrant after-work crowd.

Office of Business Opportunities Director Tina Herbert (far left) stands with naming contest winners Jennifer Felder and Megan Thomas (photo by Kelly Petty).

Office of Business Opportunities Director Tina Herbert (far left) stands with naming contest winners Jennifer Felder and Megan Thomas. (photo by Kelly Petty)

“This program will help us continue to grow Main Street beyond the 9 to 5 crowd, and create a good atmosphere for weekends and evenings,” said Tina Herbert, executive director of the Office of Business Opportunities.

Benjamin highlighted the success of Columbia restaurateur Kristian Niemi’s newest bar, Bourbon, as an example of what he hopes the loan program will do for other businesses. The bar, which is in the historic Brennen Building, benefited from the city’s Main Street facade program, which provided funding to improve the look of exterior buildings in the district.

Businesses that receive loans will be able to use the funds for interior and exterior improvements, purchase of equipment and inventory and working capital. Herbert said loans have a 10-year term. If all the requirements of the program are met after five years, the remaining loan balance will be forgiven.

Applications will be accepted starting Sept. 1. The deadline for all applications is Dec. 1.

City officials also announced the winners who participated in the naming contest for the loan program. Business owners Megan Thomas and Jennifer Felder came up with unique names for the program, which were combined to create the final name” Main Street Capital Program … creating more feet on Main.

Both received $50 gift cards to Bourbon. Thomas and Felder said they are looking at opportunities to move or expand their businesses on Main Street and are excited to apply for the program.

Thomas said the growth on Main Street will make Columbia as attractive as other cities in South Carolina like Greenville and Charleston.

“I no longer have to get jealous because I know growth is coming to Columbia,” she said.

Categories: Business

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