St. Petersburg City Council will consider changes to the South St. Petersburg Community Revitalization Area (CRA) Redevelopment Microloan Program Thursday, as the city aims to better serve start-up businesses within South St. Petersburg.
The program, approved and established by City Council in December 2018, currently provides up to $5,000 of funding in the form of forgivable loans to existing small businesses upon complete required business education curriculum administered by The Greenhouse, a partnership between the City and the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce.
The proposed amendments to the program would change the name of the program to Redevelopment MicroFund Program. They would also convert the forgivable loan program to a grant award, and allow the funding to go to both currently established businesses and “pre-venture” or start-up businesses.
Dispersal of the funds would remain contingent on the completion of individualized curriculum created by The Greenhouse for each individual business, based on its stage of growth.
The “pre-venture” businesses would also have the opportunity to apply for an additional $5,000 of funding after demonstrating compliance with required training and mentorship curriculum, reporting metrics, and submission of all necessary documentation of loan proceeds going towards eligible costs.
“Bravo,” said Gypsy Gallardo of One Community and the 2020 Plan. “There is a pressing need to expand capital access at the start-up level.”
The South St. Petersburg CRA is a place-based and people-based initiative funded by Tax Increment Financing (TIF). It was established to promote reinvestment in the 7.4 square-mile area, comprised of an historically African American section of St. Petersburg that has faced decades of disinvestment. It includes neighborhoods like Childs Park, Campbell Park, Grand Central District, Midtown and two Florida Main Street Districts, among others.
Community Redevelopment Areas have historically spent funds on “hard” infrastructure, like buildings, parking garages, streetscaping and property acquisition. St. Petersburg’s model has sought to support private businesses instead.
Under the new process, grant awardees would complete a business assessment with The Greenhouse, crafting a plan specifically tailored to the needs of that business or start-up based on the initial idea, stage of growth and future goals.
The Greenhouse would then create a curriculum of workshops, mentorship, business coaching and reporting to be completed prior to the business receiving its grant funding.
According to city staff, the amendments to the program will reduce administrative costs by removing the loan servicing piece of the program, and provide funding for a segment of the business population that is not easily served by traditional lending and was not previously served by the city.