Downtown Raleigh small business grant could get cash to owners when they need it most

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Despite the setbacks being posed by the Delta variant of COVID-19 and the slowdown in vaccinations, there's hope among some business owners that we will soon be back on track.

And at some of the businesses in downtown Raleigh, there's also hope they will be welcoming customers with a fresh new look now that the Downtown Raleigh Alliance or DRA is doling out $50,000 in grants.

The loans can be a lifesaver.

Take it from Brian Burnett, a downtown business owner who got one in the last round a few months ago.

"Who stands behind a small business owner, right? That's one of the main opportunities for grants like, you know, like the Downtown Raleigh Upfit Grant. That's why it's so critical for small businesses because, who do we have behind us?"

Burnett owns Glenwood South Tailors.

He got a $7,500 grant to help expand and improve his business.

Of that, $5,000 was the initial amount. And there was an additional $2,500 that's available to minority and women-owned businesses.

"That was, you know, probably about 40% of what the total cost was," he said. "We turned this into our bespoke showroom, we added paneling, we had to add lights, we had to, you know, raise the ceiling, we had to add new floors, we had to add new systems, new HVAC unit, ductwork."

Downtown businesses that qualify for the latest round could get up to $10,000.

And that's not the only change, according DRA's Will Gaskins.

"We've since expanded the use to allow both restaurant, and service uses in kind of the downtown core, the core of downtown, the Fayetteville Street district, and then the Moore Square district, primarily because that's where we think we need a little bit more targeted assistance," he said.

Gaskins, the director of economic development for the DRA, said the grants are also open to potential businesses interested in empty storefronts.

"This new grant gives us a lot of flexibility to be able to help on the, I call it retail, the storefront recruitment level."

He added that filling up empty spaces as the pandemic winds down will help all businesses, even those who don't qualify for the grants.

Burnett knows this and encourages others to apply like he did.

"You need to reach out to the DRA and ask for the funds that you qualify for. Now is the time to strike," he said.

Burnett sees only one problem with the grant program.

He said the pot needs to be bigger than the current total of $50,000.
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