Business loan

Wilmington expands business loan programs with $1.4 million in ARPA funds

Governor Carney signs Joyce Woodlen House Bill 205 at Joy’s Hair Boutique. | PHOTO COURTESY OF JOYCE WOODLEN

WILMINGTON – The City of Wilmington recently partnered with Cornerstone West CDC to allocate $1.45 million in America Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to expand small business innovation programs.

Cornerstone West CDC has partnered with Wilmington Alliance and True Access Capital in 2020 to meet the changing needs of the small business community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our holistic, comprehensive approach to neighborhood community development is critical to Wilmington’s economic recovery post COVID-19,” Gabrielle Lantieri, economic development manager for Cornerstone West CDC, told the Delaware Business Times. “I hope this program will have a catalytic and visual impact on our trade corridors and also support BIPOC businesses located not only on the West Side, but also in Wilmington’s low-to-moderate income neighbors, which have historically been overlooked and have undergone a divestment.”

Cornerstone West CDC will issue $550,000 for commercial stabilization by revitalizing the physical appearance of storefront improvements and addressing vacant commercial properties in its program, Building From Within: Small Business Commercial Corridor Stabilization & Innovation. The program has offered three funding opportunities to local businesses since August 1:

  • Wilmington Strong Fund: Providing $1,000 emergency grants to small businesses located in small businesses across the city struggling with the negative economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Eligible businesses can use the funds for rent/mortgage payments, utilities, supplies, or inventory bills.
  • West Side Small Business Innovation Grant: Works with contractors looking to open their business in a commercial vacancy, property owners looking for potential tenants, and existing businesses to make minor repairs to their West Side Wilmington location. Grants are between $1,000 and $10,000 for expenses related to leasehold improvements, interior and exterior repairs, facade improvements, new equipment or upgrades, costs related to departmental permits and approvals health and outdoor security cameras.
  • Western Corridor Revitalization Fund: Providing up to $20,000 in small business forgivable loans to act as a catalyst for economic revitalization on Wilmington’s West Side. The funding is for building and business owners who want to invest in the West Side community.

    Joy’s Hair Boutique located on N. Franklin Street in Wilmington | PHOTO COURTESY OF JOYCE WOODLEN

Remaining funds will be allocated for home improvements to increase home ownership by repurposing vacant homes, developing high-quality affordable housing, and helping current owners make essential repairs; and for commercial and mixed-use development to acquire vacant properties for redevelopment.

The “Build From Within” model originated from the Neighborhood Development Center (NDC) based in Saint Paul, Minnesota. The organization has established a four-step model focused on entrepreneurs and the revitalization of low-income neighborhoods through training, loans, technical assistance and incubation spaces.

Cornerstone West CDC Dominican Cafe

The Dominican Café in Wilmington is one of the businesses that has benefited from the program. | PHOTO COURTESY OF CORNERSTONE CDC

Cornerstone West CDC is inspired by Mihailo Temali’s “Community Economic Development Handbook: Strategies and Tools to Revitalize Your Neighborhood”, which emphasizes community involvement through surveys to consider multiple components neighborhoods. The model also draws attention to the progress of business districts, noting that “it must be a persistent, long-term effort led by local businesses and residents that draws resources from the private and public sectors.”

There are approximately 300 small businesses on the West Side, many of which are located between Lincoln Street, Union Street, and Lancaster Avenue. Lantieri estimates that nearly 40 Wilmington small business owners will apply for funding.

For two years, the Small Business Innovation Program has been helping business owners, including Joyce Woodlyn of Joy’s Hair Boutique and Rebecca Rodrigues at Dominican coffee rebound economically from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I was able to do the necessary facade work on my building and pay my back taxes,” Woodlyn said. “It has allowed me to keep my building in good standing with building code inspectors and the Division of Revenue.”