New Franklin County / ECDI Program Aims to Boost Retail Startups

A new program from a partnership between Franklin County and ECDI recently launched to assist retailers throughout Central Ohio. Known as the Retail Incubation Supporting Entrepreneurs (RISE) program, the goal is to support retail businesses, enhance targeted communities and to create sales tax revenue for the county.

“The Franklin County Development Department and Commissioners sought a retail-specific program to complement ECDI’s normal business startup and planning curriculum,” says Steve Fireman, President of ECDI. “Our relationship has existed almost as long as ECDI has, and Franklin County is a huge part of the ‘Job a Day, a Business a Week‘ plan that ECDI has helped to create.”

Targeted areas within Franklin County that have already been planned for development upgrades over the past few years include Clinton Township, Clinton-West, Blendon and the South West Area. Some of the retail corridors identified in those communities include Cleveland Avenue, Noe-Bixby Road, the area surrounding the Lennox Town Center, and West Broad Street near the Hollywood Casino.

“Our thinking goes something like this: engage the community, create a plan, build the infrastructure and housing, and then execute the economic development plan,” explains Jim Schimmer, Director of the Franklin County Economic Development and Planning Department. “In this case, RISE is a natural extension of our planning process and we hope to impact areas with start-up retail potential in areas where vestige retail is already in place.”

ECDI will be providing loan capital for the RISE program, and will leverage $100,000 in seed capital from Franklin County with their other 30 existing loan funds, including local investments from the Columbus Foundation, Huntington Bank and the Invest Local Ohio program.

“ECDI fits the county’s overall economic development philosophy of grass roots economic development,” adds Schimmer. “We have had to be entrepreneurial ourselves because we are always short on funds. So, like our microenterprise loan fund, or the entrepreneurial start-up program (ESP) at Tech Columbus, our goal to seed an idea and then get out to move on to the next thing. We experiment when it makes sense.”

Retail businesses that enroll in the program can expect to benefit in a number of ways. The program includes knowledge training in all aspects of retail business, possible loan funding, one-on-one mentorship with retail experts, site selection and lease negotiation assistance, and potential on-site incubation.

Business owners and startup applications who are interested in applying to take part in the RISE program can apply immediately by contacting Alicia Grantham at ECDI at agrantham@ecdi.org or on the phone at 614-732-0899. ECDI also has additional programs offering other types of small business loans available for start ups and existing businesses at up to $150,000 in capitalization available per business.

“Retailers are the backbone of our economy,” says John O’Grady, President of the Franklin County Board of Commissioners. “We know that our innovative and dedicated local businesses can compete successfully in the changing marketplace, and we’re really excited about the opportunity to help them.”

More information can be found online at development.franklincountyohio.gov and www.ecdi.org.