Jen's Bistro window

A sign in the window at 107 S. Main St. in Kendallville promises “Something Awesome Coming Soon” while interior renovations continue for what will soon become Jen’s Bistro, a new downtown eatery. The Kendallville Redevelopment Commission is launching a new marketing assistance program, that will help both new and existing businesses in downtown promote themselves.

KENDALLVILLE — One of the biggest challenges of opening a new shop can be getting the word out that you exist and are open for business.

The Kendallville Redevelopment Commission is now aiming to help new Main Street businesses with that, by offering a new Merchant Marketing Assistance Program for new business owners.

But even better, the program is not just restricted to new businesses, and is available for any existing business in the downtown corridor.

The idea was one that came out of a brainstorming session the commission completed earlier this year after learning about similar programs in other communities.

On Wednesday, the commission discussed the idea again, made some tweaks and approved its launch.

Kendallville worked primarily off a similar program already in use in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, located in the southeast corner of the state in the Cincinnati metro area, but made some tweaks to the eligibility and amounts.

The program’s goal is “To promote businesses in the downtown Main Street area (within the TIF District) through a well-defined marketing program that includes either print, radio, web-based media, or a combination of media options.”

Although Kendallville’s TIF area extends from Drake Road up to U.S. 6 along Main Street and also includes all of the U.S. 6 corridor stretching from the eastern to western city limits, the commission opted to restrict the marketing grant only to downtown core businesses.

That being said, instead of just restricting the grant opportunity to new businesses, commission members on Wednesday opted to allow any existing business in downtown to seek assistance, although only once per year.

The grant will reimburse 75% percent of marketing costs with a 25% match from the business owner, up to $500. That means a business would have to spend $667 or more in order to get the maximum $500 grant.

The Lawrenceburg program offered a 50% match up to $1,000, but Kendallville opted to go with a smaller cap but a more generous grant contribution for its businesses.

Businesses will have to file an application with the city redevelopment commission and include information about their proposed marketing/promotional program, a detailed budget and proof that they’ve worked with a representative in newspaper, radio, internet advertising to form their plan and budget.

Grant applications will be reviewed at the monthly meeting of the redevelopment commission, which is regularly scheduled on the second Wednesday of the month at 8 a.m. at City Hall.

The grant application will eventually be uploaded to the redevelopment commission’s website, but people interested right now can contact commission President Kristen Johnson at kjohnson@kendallvillechamber.com.

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