Newark mayor announces plans for grants

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Cory bookerAppearance is everything. In an on-going effort to make the city of Newark a burgeoning and attractive lure for small and large businesses, Newark Mayor Cory Booker announced plans in May to offer grants to existing business owners to enhance the façade of their businesses.

The first of its kind, this initiative in Newark will provide up to $50,000 in grants to business owners to renovate their properties and promote the “brick city” as an appealing, viable and potentially lucrative place to do business. Booker made the announcement at a press conference in May to dedicate the first ever protected bike lane in Newark in conjunction with various ongoing statewide “go green” initiatives. “This is a great day for the city of Newark,” Booker said. “Newark is becoming a vibrant city of hope that is greener and more small-business friendly.”

The city of Newark and the Urban Enterprise Zone Assistance (UEZ) program in Newark will pick up the tab for funding the grants. Business owners must provide 25 percent of the cost to renovate their businesses. The city of Newark and the UEZ network will award qualified businesses grants for the remaining 75 percent. “The Façade Improvement Program will enhance the business climate, beauty, safety and property value of the city’s buildings and neighborhoods,” said Ollyn Lettman, director of the UEZ.

For Booker, who was recently re-elected to a second term as mayor, promoting Newark as a great city for both large and small businesses to establish roots has remained a key focal point throughout his administration. During his initial run for mayor in 2006 as well as his most recent campaign for re-election, he promised tax breaks and other incentives to lure businesses to Newark. The strategy worked, as dozens of small minority and women-owned business enterprises (M/WBE’s) have set up shop in Newark in recent years, including the Brick City Coffee Company and NobleStrategy, a construction management firm. And in late May, Pitney Bowes, one of the largest marketing services and eco-wise mail companies in the country, opened an international mail services processing facility in Newark, creating more than 200 jobs.

William Parrish Jr., owner of NobleStrategy, opened an office in the heart of Newark late last year. Parrish said he has already submitted an application for the new FAÇADE program. “Offering substantial grants to business owners in Newark to improve the appearance and operations of their small businesses is great motivation to any entrepreneur in the city,” he said.

The Façade Improvement Program will start this summer on various pilot properties across the city. It is unclear as to where in the city the pilot projects will begin, however, speculation is that businesses located in Historically Underutilized BusinessZones (HUBZones) and Urban Enterprise Zones throughout the city will receive first priority.