May 3, 2019
Pilot program provides grants, technical assistance to businesses impacted by construction and socioeconomic changes
The City and County of Denver is lending a hand to small businesses that might be struggling to make ends meet due to changing neighborhood conditions. In partnership with Mile High United Way, Denver is testing a pilot program, offering financial grants and technical assistance to businesses in north central and northeast neighborhoods that may be impacted by either major infrastructure construction and/or socioeconomic changes occurring within these areas.
“Denver is the city it is today thanks to the incredible work at the neighborhood level of our residents and small businesses to keep our communities strong and vibrant,” Mayor Michael B. Hancock said. “This pilot is one more way that we as a city can support the long-term success of our local, neighborhood businesses, as well as elevate the people and places that make our neighborhoods so special.”
The pilot Business Impact Opportunity (BIO) Fund offers technical assistance and grants of up to $5,000 to eligible businesses in Globeville, Elyria, Swansea and Northeast Park Hill. The program, launched in January, aims to stabilize impacted businesses and help them toward long-term sustainability. Grant funds can be used to substitute for lost revenue, to invest in business promotion, and to add capacity to a business’s current operations.
The pilot program is funded with $105,000 from Denver Economic Development & Opportunity (DEDO) and the North Denver Cornerstone Collaborative (NDCC). Mile High United Way was contracted to administer the program and provide technical assistance by their United Business Advisory team, drawing on their history of community work and partnerships in the targeted neighborhoods.
“Mile High United Way is proud to serve our communities and small local businesses through these grants. Through this partnership, we can ensure that individuals and families in our community are thriving and moving toward economic self-sufficiency. It’s really exciting to be part of this innovative process,” said Vanessa Huerta, Business Advisor with Mile High United Way’s United Business Advisory program.
The program has just awarded its first grants, totaling $13,000, to three small businesses. The Panaderia Juanitas bakery, located at 46th and Josephine, is one of the early program participants, and has struggled with a lower customer volume during recent months of construction which limited access to the business. Owner Antonio Uribe says, “This fund is a great help to continue to move us forward for a longer period of time. It truly has been very difficult after the construction started more than a year ago. Here in this area we have friends, acquaintances, and clients become friends. I like it here because we feel comfortable with all people.”
The pilot program is being targeted to businesses that generate less than $500,000 in annual gross revenue and with 25 or fewer employees. Priority is being given to businesses directly adjacent to active construction sites, and to minority/woman/veteran-owned businesses. Targeted businesses also include retail, hospitality and small manufacturing establishments, and neighborhood-serving businesses.
“We recognize that destabilizing factors can result in significant decline of business revenue, displacement or closure of the business,” said DEDO Executive Director Eric Hiraga. “The BIO Fund is the result of us taking a close look at other programs across the country to see how we can best mitigate the impacts of construction. We will study the outcomes of this pilot closely, and we hope to expand this program to serve a broader area, pending future budget approval.”
The BIO Fund is the latest in a series of supportive services offered in Globeville, Elyria and Swansea. Other investments include the opening of the North Denver Resource Center at the Valdez-Perry Branch Library, Strengthening Neighborhoods Mini-Grants, Women Who Lead, plus other social impact programs from the NDCC.
Businesses interested in accessing more information on the program are encouraged to contact Mile High United Way at UBA@unitedwaydenver.org or 303-561-2301 to make an appointment with a business advisor.