Middletown creates custom grants for new small businesses

Middletown officials are developing a pair of pilot agreements for small business economic development grants for two businesses.

City Manager Doug Adkins said the pilot agreements were customized using city funds for these businesses as they would not meet the criteria for other economic development programs.

“With downtown starting to get hot again, we’re having trouble getting places to where we have buildings that are ready to go,” Adkins said. “It will take a fair amount of investment in these buildings that have not been renovated with electric and HVAC to get these buildings up to speed.”

In the first agreement, the city is planning to provide a $23,000 grant to Dedicated Motivated for its redevelopment of a previously vacant 28,000 square-foot building at 3701 S. Breiel Blvd. The building was the previous location of Grandview Builders Supply.

Dedicated Motivated Fitness, which is now open for business, is investing $600,000 that would create 15 new jobs and about $52,800 in new payroll, according to Alexis Fitzsimmons, the city’s assistant economic development director.

The proposed grant would provide an annual payment in the amount of 100 percent of the income tax collected on the new payroll, attributable to new employees being hired during a 24-month job creation period up to a maximum of $5,000.

If the company maintains occupancy for one year, it will receive a $15,000 small business economic development grant and up to $3,000 for the reimbursement of city permit and inspection fees at the property.

“We have been working with Dedicated Motivated for a couple of years trying to help them find new space and expand their business,” Fitzsimmons said.

For the second agreement, the city will provide a $10,000 Small Business Economic Development Grant for the recently-opened Grandpa Joe’s Candy Store, 1212 Central Ave., which was an incentive for the company to locate in downtown Middletown.

The company specializes in hard-to-find and regional specialty items, which has helped it become a candy “destination” and a regional attraction, according to Matt Eisenbraun, the city’s assistant economic development director.

Grandpa Joe’s Candy will be leasing 4,000 square-feet at the former location of the Liberty Diner and is investing $75,000 for the candy store, bottled soda room and ice cream parlor. The building had been vacant for the past two years. The company will be creating four full-time jobs and 12 part-time jobs and a new payroll of $310,000.

As an incentive to expand here, the city is offering the $10,000 grant in which $2,500 would be used for a new sign to match the historic style of the building; $6,500 to assist in relocation and build-out; and waiving permit fees of up to $1,000.

Resident Bob Nolan, told council he opposed the proposed deals and thinks the city is investing in the wrong things.

“The city is investing over and above what they should,” he said, adding that the funds should be used to attract larger employers.

City Council will consider adopting both as emergency ordinances after second readings at the Nov. 21 council meeting.

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