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City bolsters commitment to South St. Pete businesses

Veronica Brezina



St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch announces the new South St. Pete CRA Microfund in front of the St. Pete Greenhouse. Photos by Veronica Brezina.

Entrepreneurs in South St. Pete struggling to keep the lights on, or progress to the next step in expanding their business, now have a new funding source. 

On the steps of St. Pete Greenhouse Tuesday morning, St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch announced the rollout of the South St. Petersburg CRA (Community Redevelopment Area) Microfund program – a new accessible funding pot for business owners. 

“Our business owners can use it to make targeted improvements without providing any upfront capital or matching,” Welch said. The CRA Microfund program will distribute a total investment that exceeds $1.35 million. The city will disburse the funds in increments over a four-application period. 

In addition to the funding, St. Pete Greenhouse will be the “boots on the ground,” serving in a cohort capacity by pairing participating individuals with navigators to receive guidance in finance, marketing, sales and management. 

City officials previously launched a commercial matching grant program for existing businesses in 2016. However, it had shortcomings and excluded a lot of other businesses vital to the CRA that were not able to take advantage of it because of a lack of capital access.

Thus, over a three-to-four-month period, the city’s economic development team and St. Pete Greenhouse worked on creating a separate program that provides resources for smaller businesses and early-stage entrepreneurs still finding their footing. 

“We believe this will be a game changer for South St. Pete businesses as they look to compete, survive and thrive. This is what inclusive progress looks like,” Welch said, adding it reflects the city’s core principles in aiding the small businesses that call St. Pete home. 

St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch speaks to small business owners in front of the St. Pete Greenhouse. 

For the May program pilot launch, the city aims to award a total of $350,000 to nearly 50 qualifying business owners in increments of up to $10,000. 

The applying business must be located in the South St. Petersburg CRA, which is bounded by 2nd Avenue North, Interstate 275, I-175, and Booker Creek on the north; 4th Street South on the east; 30th Avenue South on the south; and 49th Street on the west.

“One of the primary reasons that the CRA was created was to uplift the community historically and disproportionally impacted by poverty, and lack of resources, access and capital,” Welch said. 

City officials instituted the South St. Pete CRA in 2015 to promote reinvestment in housing, neighborhoods, commercial corridors, education, workforce and business development and nonprofits. Encompassing 7.3 square miles and 4,777 acres, the CRA is the city’s largest and one of the most expansive in the state.

The South St. Pete CRA Microfund enrollment process opens May 9 and closes at the end of the month. The city will accept the applications on a first-come-first-served basis and expects the initial cohort to run for 45 days. 

The available grant funding is divided into several disbursement buckets for the following existing businesses: 

  • Brick-and-mortar business: $10,000 
  • Family-car business: $10,000
  • Home-based business: $5,000
  • Shared commercial space business (for example, food trucks): $5,000
  • Early-stage startup (which is limited to five businesses): $2,500

To be considered, the early-stage startups must be past the ideation stage and demonstrate they are actively developing and launching their business, according to the program’s eligibility requirements. 

Councilmember Brandi Gabbard, who spoke while the Committee of the Whole meeting was in recess, said the St. Pete business owners will receive the funds once they complete the program and form an execution plan.

Following the completion of the first cohort, the city will review the program and may modify it. 

The next cohort, which will start this fall or winter, will have 35 to 50 business owners, said Tracey Smith, St. Pete Greenhouse manager and small business liaison. 

If a business owner participated in an earlier cohort, they can reapply to join another cohort. 

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1 Comment

1 Comment

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    k Holmes

    May 2, 2023at5:15 pm

    That’s unfair to other businesses that are having a hard time. Keeping their lights on regardless if we’re on the North side or the South side.

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