San Jose awarding startup grants to fill in downtown businesses

150 150 Cheryl Getuiza

(photo credit: the_tahoe_guy)

California has gotten a bad rap in the business world. Specifically for entrepreneurs and small businesses who find themselves drowning in a sea of strict rules, regulations, red tape and varying levels of taxation.

Small businesses are the main engine of job growth in the state and, indeed, the entire country. Some would say the reason there are not enough jobs today is because small businesses and entrepreneurs are slowly sinking to the bottom of the ocean with little help to survive.

According to a recent survey conducted by Small Business California, nearly 59 percent of small business executives said California is headed in the wrong direction. As for the business climate for small businesses? It’s not any better. Nearly 40 percent said it was poor.

The city of San Jose is hoping to change all of that. City leaders have made it a priority to support startups with a new grant initiative for leasing in the downtown area and neighborhood districts.

“This initiative is a way we can help fill street-level storefronts, go from vacant to vibrant and give small business retailers a running start,” said Kim Walesh, Chief Strategist and Director of Economic Development.

The San Jose Office of Economic Development is offering grants totaling $250,000 to offset some of the costs of opening up a shop.

“The current vacancy rate downtown is 19 percent. We are excited to see what this grant will do. A business could receive up to $16,000 to offset up to a maximum of $16,000 in credit to offset the cost of city permits, fees and taxes,” said Walesh.

Businesses who are awarded the grant would be credited 50 percent of fees due at issuance of building permits, for a maximum of $8,000 and remainder of the award would be provided at issuance of occupancy permit.

“The Storefront Initiative is an excellent example of the city of San Jose proactively working to identify crucial business corridors and vacant locations that can serve as a catalyst to revitalize downtown,” said Matthew Mahood, president & CEO, San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce. “By creating an opportunity for property owners, brokers, and business owners to each benefit from leasing a currently vacant location, we can begin to bring business to our city core, and neighborhood business districts.”

The grant comes at a great time as many new retail and restaurants have opened in downtown and the neighborhood business districts.

‘More than 20 new retail and restaurant establishments opened in downtown this year. Having a grant that focuses on retail, small startups and co-working spaces helps to fill a niche that is needed in downtown and the neighborhood business districts that are represented under this initiative,” said Walesh.

Mahood added that help keep the growth downtown going, as more essential businesses take advantage of the program.

“Furthermore the reduction in fees and expedited process this grant covers will get those businesses in to key properties as quickly as possible or at the speed of business,” said Mahood. “The initiative was inspired by the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber’s Study Mission in 2012 to San Diego, where delegates saw how attention to business corridors can yield dramatic results for improving business prosperity and creating a sense of place.”

Moving at the speed of business sounds just what entrepreneurs need to help power through the difficult startup process. The California Economic Summit, co-sponsored by California Forward, has identified streamlining regulations and reducing barriers to capital as two of its Signature Initiatives for Summit Action Teams to tackle and use commonsense ideas like San Jose’s to boost job creation in all of California’s regions.


Cheryl Getuiza

All stories by: Cheryl Getuiza