EDA Creates Programs to Enhance Commercial Corridors in Garden State Growth Zones

The Board of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) acted to expand support of small business growth in Garden State Growth Zones (GSGZs) through the creation of the Business Lease Incentive (BLI) and Business Improvement Incentive (BII) programs.

The BLI and BII programs are designed to support the growth of retail and services in GSGZs by providing grants to street level new and expanding businesses. The effect of these programs will be maximized by concentrating these grants in designated corridors consistent with each city’s development plans. The programs will be launched on a pilot basis and capitalized with a total of $3 million. Of that, $1 million will be available per year over the three-year life of the programs, evenly divided and reserved for projects in the legislatively-created GSGZs, which include Trenton, Camden, Paterson, Passaic and Atlantic City.

The BLI program will offer reimbursement of a percentage of annual lease payments for two years to for-profit businesses and non-profit organizations in eligible areas that plan to lease between 500 and 5,000 square feet of new or additional market-rate, first-floor office, industrial or retail space for a minimum five-year term. An applicant leasing over 5,000 square feet would be eligible, but the incentive would only reimburse for the first 5,000 square feet.

The BII program will offer grants of up to 50 percent of total project costs, not to exceed $20,000, to businesses operating within the first floor of a commercial corridor in GSGZs that are planning to make building improvements, with a minimum project cost of $5,000.

“These programs were designed to complement the private investment in GSGZs driven by the Economic Opportunity Act,” said EDA Chief Executive Officer Melissa Orsen. “The combination of lease incentives and opportunities to improve appearance and functionality of facilities will help to attract and retain small businesses in these areas and help to position them to capitalize on local economic momentum.”

Developed in collaboration with the GSGZs, EDA will continue to work with these communities to ensure the programs meet the needs of the respective markets. This information will include recommendations for areas of eligibility within each city, plans for marketing the incentives to potential applicants, and a contact within each GSGZ to help pre-screen applicants and guide them through the application process. Applications will be accepted beginning in the second quarter of 2017.

The BLI and BII programs will supplement existing EDA resources that help small businesses bridge financing gaps and increase their access to capital. This includes offering low-interest loans, bond financing, and support for micro-lenders to increase their lending capacity and the technical assistance and training services they offer.  EDA’s activities to promote its programs in support of small businesses are centered around the theme “EDA Was Here.”  The campaign and social media presence highlight how organizations have used the EDA’s financing programs to overcome challenges, meet their needs and grow.

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