Options Exist For Downtown Business Beautification
Never underestimate the power of a well-designed storefront. Aside from word-of-mouth recommendations shoppers typically only have curb appeal to help them determine whether or not a business is worth visiting. And a customer’s first impression of a business’s brand can often be the difference between someone coming in or walking past. When competing with the big-box retailers, chains, and franchises that have very identifiable branding, smaller local businesses must turn on the charm by creating storefronts that are welcoming to visitors and quickly tell them what goods and services are provided.
Despite the fact that storefront beautification projects that improve curb appeal can count for 70 per cent of new visitor sales at restaurants, retail shops, and hotels and lodging establishments, it is often difficult for small businesses to front the capital costs to pull off such improvements.
Cue Community Futures, a community driven, non-profit organization that is actively engaged in providing a wide range of small business services and business management tools for people who want to start, expand, or improve a business.
In 2011, Community Futures partnered with the Downtown Lethbridge Business Revitalization Zone and Heart of Our City to provide the Business Improvement Loan program to provide financial assistance to businesses in the downtown. The program provides interest-free loans up to a maximum of $15,000 for downtown businesses to improve the appearance of their business, with the interest being paid by the Heart of Our City.
Eligible improvements include signage, exterior finishes, repair or replacement of storefront windows and doors, interior and exterior lighting, window display areas, new architectural features, addition of patio areas and landscaping, flooring and much more!
Since 2011, 87 loans have been issued which have directly resulted in maintaining and creating more than 320 full- and part-time jobs as well as being leveraged to facilitate more than $1.6 million in improvements in our Downtown.
“This program is a win-win, as small business and entrepreneurs receive valuable assistance while also contributing to making our downtown more beautiful and sustainable” says Darlene Sinclair, General Manager of Community Futures Lethbridge Region.
More information on the Business Improvement Loan program and other small business services and business management tools that Community Futures provides can be found at www.lethbridgeregion.albertacf.com or by contacting 403-320-6044.
I challenge every resident to help Our Downtown to be the best it can be. With our partners on the Downtown BRZ and the Heart of Our City Committee, we encourage you to contribute to the content of this column and the BRZ’s #OurDowntown video series with your comments, questions, ideas, and suggestions by engaging with us on Twitter (@DowntownLeth) using the hashtag #ourdowntown and at www.getinvolvedlethbridge.ca/ourdowntown.*This column was published in the Lethbridge Herald on November 19, 2018