The city of Princeton and the Princeton Area Chamber of Commerce are starting a downtown business revitalization/acceleration program called the “It Starts Here” campaign in an attempt to fill the city’s 16 or 17 vacant commercial spots.
The city and local chamber of commerce have set up a meeting for May 17 at 6:30 p.m. in city hall to explain the campaign. Princeton Community Development Director/Zoning Administrator Carie Fuhrman explained to the city council last Thursday that the idea is to bring together “key stakeholders to kick off the campaign project.”
Fuhrman defined stakeholders as downtown property owners and business owners, local realtors and bankers, members of the city’s economic development authority board, city council and Princeton area chamber, the Initiative Foundation, East Central Regional Development Commission (ECRDC) and school district.
“The goal,” Fuhrman says, is to “engage the entire Princeton community in revitalizing our downtown by filling the vacant spaces with successful, sustainable small businesses. With funding raised and donations provided by various entities, the hope is to help provide entrepreneurs and new business owners with the training and capital necessary to start a successful and sustainable business in the downtown area.”
Funding, according to Fuhrman, could be used for business coaching, leasing costs, start-up capital, equipment purchasing, building improvements and more.
Fuhrman said the campaign leaders would seek funding from a variety of sources including local banks, Initiative Foundation, local investors and “possibly the city and chamber.”
Fuhrman noted that the ECRDC offers a revolving loan fund that could be used.
But Fuhrman is also looking to what she refers to as “an increased level of community investment,” in which “we could also seek to utilize a crowd-sourcing funding mechanism such as Kickstarter…” Kickstarter, she said, “allows people who believe in a business project to make contributions to the new venture. This not only makes the community aware of a business proposal, but can also show investors and banks that they are capable of leveraging money.”
All this would require a marketing campaign and establishing criteria for reviewing proposals, Fuhrman noted. The recent survey done at the local business and community expo this spring on reasons for shopping or not shopping in Princeton, could be used as an indicator of local residents’s desires, Fuhrman added.
Anyone being chosen for a project under this funding program, Fuhrman noted in a memo to the council, would have to participate in the chamber’s business mentoring program and meet with the “SBDC.” Fuhrman’s memo then refers to the St. Cloud SBDC, which stands for Small Business Development Center. She said the center has offered to donate 100 hours of counseling services, worth $3,500, to the Princeton business acceleration program.