New entrepreneur program aimed at drawing businesses to downtown West Bend

Will provide free services, space to two business owners

Downtown West Bend businesses
The historic West Bend Theatre in downtown West Bend.

Last updated on August 8th, 2019 at 11:18 am

The Downtown West Bend Business Improvement District is launching a new startup attraction program to provide two entrepreneurs with free services, mentoring and space to establish their businesses in the city’s downtown.

The Downtown BID is now seeking applications for the new Downtown Entrepreneur Opportunity program, which will provide one year of services and space to the winning businesses.

Adam Gitter, economic development manager for the city of West Bend, said the Downtown BID has been particularly focused on filling empty storefronts since 2018. The increased focus prompted a series of discussions among business owners, which led to the idea of offering a comprehensive package of services to support and lure potential businesses to the downtown.

“We came up with this very large package that we can now send out and market and let people know that downtown West Bend is a very collaborative community where we will help you succeed in working together,” Gitter said. “This is an environment where we’re here to help one another.”

Two winning businesses will receive a package that includes: personal and business financial assistance, a three-year business and personal tax review, and legal and marketing services for one year after the businesses are selected.

The BID will also work with the entrepreneurs to rehab vacant spaces in the downtown where they can establish their businesses under a one-year lease. After the year, the building and business owners can choose to extend the lease.

The program is open to all types of businesses allowable in the Downtown BID.

The city also offers a business development loan program, which provides loans between $10,000 and $25,000 with a five- or 10-year term and a fixed 1% interest rate.

Gitter said existing downtown West Bend businesses have rallied around the program. Many have offered their services. For example, Habitat for Humanity of Washington and Dodge Counties will provide rehab work. Business Interiors Inc. is contributing furniture. Alexssa Enterprises will offer its IT services to the businesses.

“It shows (businesses) are not just out for themselves, but they’re out for the community as a whole,” Gitter said. “We’re a friendly community, but we’re also a business friendly community.”

Those interested must complete an application and submit a business plan by Sept. 20. A selection committee is expected to name finalists on Sept. 26 and the BID board will name the winners on Oct. 1.

Once selected, the goal is for the business owners to move in to their new spaces the week of Nov. 11.

More information is available on the city website.

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Lauren Anderson
Lauren Anderson covers health care, nonprofits, education and insurance for BizTimes. Lauren previously reported on education for the Waukesha Freeman. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studied journalism, history and African studies. In her free time, Lauren enjoys spending time with family and friends and seeing live music wherever she can.