City organizers and potential participants in the traditional business plan for September 9. The scope of the new initiative will be discussed at the Evanston Civic Centre on the 29th.
The program applies to both Celebrate and ensure long-term stability Established Evanston businesses and organizations, been discussed for several months. Community members can nominate possible traditional businesses Via Google Forms.
Owners and representatives from Bennison’s Bakery, Hecky’s Barbecue, Chiropractic First, Belgian Chocolatier Piron and Cahill Plumbing attended last week’s meeting to brainstorm ideas for the plan and determine the amount of allocation to be sought from the City’s Future Council.
City officials developing the group are: City Council Members Clare Kelly, District 1 and Melissa Wynne, District 3; Conservation Commissioners Carl Klein and Suzi Reinhold; Economic Development Manager Paul Zalmazek; and Urban Planner Cade Sterling. Kelly, Klein, Reinhold and Sterling all participated in September. 29 meetings.
“The business became part of the collective memory of Evanston,” Sterling said at the meeting. “…some people define a community by the business there.”
Sterling said the program is designed to celebrate Evanston’s long-standing business history and provide financial and/or strategic assistance to business owners who need it.
Kelly said the city has allocated $100,000 to start the program. Sterling said he believes the $500,000 grant over the next few years will be sufficient to provide financial assistance to five to 10 businesses as well as promotional services for other players.
Kelly said businesses will be encouraged to nominate themselves for the award. To be eligible for consideration, the business must have been in business for at least 20 years.
The potential help the program will provide is still up in the air. For example, participants talked about rental assistance, but have yet to decide what form it will take.
Sterling suggested the city might help business owners compete with tough landlords and encourage those landlords to negotiate long-term leases.
However, Chiropractic First’s Meggie Smith said small business owners sometimes had to take advantage of going elsewhere to get agreed terms from landlords – so businesses might sometimes find shorter leases preferable.
The group also discussed the prospect of direct financial assistance to business owners, but most agreed that, if realized, it would be a one-off.
Reinhold predicts that the program’s coffers will quickly deplete if longer-term direct-payment financial aid is committed. Other forms of help may include mentoring services or help with developing a business plan.
Another key component of the program will be its outreach services to the community; a request for proposals has been issued for design and web services. The September group of 29 participants saw samples of promotional materials from similar legacy projects in San Francisco, including items such as plaques and tote bags.
Most of the 31 businesses suggested as Legacy Business participants are outside the city center, and many are not part of a business district organization such as downtown Evanston, Sterling said. He said he hopes the Legacy Business program will draw attention to their work and help as many businesses as possible across the city prepare for the challenges ahead.