The city has increased its commitment to economic development by offering new small business owners the opportunity to receive up to $2,000 in grants.
Middletown’s Small Business Creation and Expansion Grant Program is federally funded and provides an initial grant of $1,500 for eligible business expenses and a bonus grant of $500 for businesses that go through the Middletown Small Business Development Center.
The center, based in the and funded by the city and the chamber, provides one-on-one mentoring and guidance to solve the unique challenges that small businesses and startups face.
Mayor Dan Drew said the program is uniquely stationed to help the long-term unemployed. “We know there are a lot of unemployed people out there and we know when people lose their jobs many look to start their own businesses. We wanted to support them."
Director of Planning and Zoning, William Warner, offered a sobering statistic his department hoped to counter. "Small businesses are creating the majority of the jobs in the state, but 85 percent of small businesses will fail in the first five years. It's in our best interests to nurture these small companies and help them grow and create jobs and pay taxes."
Larry McHugh, president of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, praised city leaders, especially the Common Council Economic Development Committee, for their proactive approach to small business development. “This is another example of the mayor and Bill Warner stepping up to the plate for small businesses."
"The city provides funding for the small business development center here in the Chamber, provides grants and technical assistance to individuals looking to start a business and even offers affordable space in the city’s Remington Rand Incubator facility in the north end,” McHugh said.
To date, the city has reviewed 56 applications: 25 from small businesses seeking to expand their workforce and 31 from individuals seeking to establish a new business.
Nineteen of the eligible businesses have successfully gone through the entire program, creating 18 full-time equivalent jobs.
The City of Middletown funded the program with a $60,000 Community Development Block Grant award and has now increased that amount with another $50,000 grant. This pot of $110,000 will help create or expand 55 local companies.
Michiel Wackers, deputy director and administrator of the Community Development Block Grant program, said this program is another of the many tools used to help Middletown grow, even in economically difficult times. “The program was created as a result of the suggestions received from our semiannual business confidence survey."
Wackers indicated CDBG is a federal program that provides about $400,000 in entitlement funding to the city each year to help improve the lives of low and moderate income residents through public service programs, improvements to
public facilities, improvements to housing and assistance for economic development efforts.