Street Talk: A crowded table

Al fresco dining.
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More than 100 small businesses around Michigan will use the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s MI Local Biz crowdfunding program throughout the month of June, MEDC said on June 4.

The MEDC will provide a total of $500,000 in matching grants to help businesses as they work to recover from the impacts of COVID-19.

“Michigan’s small businesses and traditional downtowns are a vital part of the state’s economy, and this program offers innovative access to capital for those businesses currently experiencing a loss in revenue directly related to the COVID-19 crisis,” said Mark Burton, CEO of the MEDC. “Helping our local businesses to successfully reopen lays a path for economic recovery in communities across the state while offering patrons an opportunity to support businesses in a time of need.”

Launched in May, the MI Local Biz program builds on the MEDC’s Public Spaces Community Places (PSCP) program, in which residents can use crowdfunding to be part of the development of strategic projects in their communities and be backed with a matching grant from MEDC.

MI Local Biz allows for a small business to leverage donation-based crowdfunding through the Michigan-based Patronicity platform and to receive a 1:1 matching grant from MEDC of up to $5,000. Funds must be used by the businesses for working capital needs in order to maintain ongoing operations during and through the COVID-19 crisis.

“I was absolutely blown away to be chosen for the MI Local Biz grant matching program,” said Cori Williams, owner of Beer City Barre in Grand Rapids.

“I know there are so many deserving businesses out there, and I do not take this amazing opportunity for granted. The support of the community rallying around small businesses like mine is inspiring, and it gives many people like myself a glimpse of hope as we make our way out of this unprecedented time. The money we receive through this program will be used to cover our basic expenses that have been hard to meet with our loss in sales over the last few months — rent, software, utilities (and) instructor pay, just to name a few.”

Businesses in 42 counties are currently participating in the MI Local Biz program in communities ranging from Houghton in the Upper Peninsula to Benton Harbor in Southwest Michigan to Spring Lake in West Michigan to the Lake Michigan port city of Manistee to Port Huron on the east side.

Campaigns are continuing to go live and will be added to the page on a regular basis.

Examples of the types of businesses that are participating include restaurants, bars, coffee shops, cafes, salons, day spas, yoga studios, historic theaters, retail shops, art galleries, recreation businesses and more.

Those interested in learning more and supporting businesses in their communities can visit patronicity.com/milocalbiz.

The page includes a list of all the businesses running campaigns through the program, and there also is a map showing the locations of them throughout the state.

Art of recovery

After the riots that rocked downtown Grand Rapids on May 30, prominent storefronts throughout the city were left with significant damage. However, on the following Sunday morning, the community came together to help clean up the aftermath. By mid-afternoon, streets and sidewalks were swept of debris and storefronts were boarded up.

While the boards act as a temporary measure to protect the damaged storefronts, they detract from much of the lively energy Grand Rapids has come to exhibit. To help restore some of this energy, CWD Real Estate Investment partnered with Lions & Rabbits to bring back the artistic spirit Grand Rapids embodies.

Murals will be installed throughout the downtown area’s damaged storefronts in an effort to inspire, invigorate and remind the community of the city’s strength and unity, according to Lions & Rabbits owner Hannah Berry, who also is one of the driving forces behind the “After Dark” program designed to enhance city neighborhoods.

“What happened here Saturday night was not unique to Grand Rapids. What happened next certainly was. On Sunday morning — literally before the sun was up, our community came out to repair the damage sustained,” said Sam Cummings, managing partner at CWD Real Estate. “The generosity and selfless beauty of what happened everywhere around our downtown inspired us again and again throughout the day. It is such a testament to what an amazing place West Michigan is.”

CWD said it is working to get windows cut and installed as quickly as possible, but until then, the firm wants people to feel comfortable being downtown. With businesses beginning to reopen as a result of the statewide stay-at-home orders being lifted, CWD wants to encourage people to continue supporting local businesses in and around downtown Grand Rapids.

The collaborative project will highlight some local artists while supporting the small businesses that were damaged.

Murals began appearing throughout Downtown Grand Rapids on June 5. The full list of CWD properties that will see mural installations include: 37 Ottawa, 40 Pearl, 50 Louis, 80 Ottawa, 111 Lyon, 125 Ottawa, 169 Monroe, 180 Ottawa, 201 Michigan and 250 Monroe.

Great outdoors

Wyoming is temporarily allowing local restaurants to expand outdoor seating arrangements.

“Wyoming is home to a variety of excellent restaurants that feature cuisines from around the world,” said Mayor Jack Poll. “I’m excited to give restaurant owners an opportunity to jumpstart their businesses as we rebound from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. With the support of the community I know they’ll be successful. I welcome everyone in West Michigan to join us for a meal in Wyoming.”

The emergency order signed earlier this month is designed to support local restaurants that are reopening with reduced indoor capacity due to social distancing restrictions.

To take advantage of the new guidelines, business owners will need to apply and be approved for the expanded seating area. Before submitting their application, applicants are encouraged to contact staff to discuss their plan and any questions they may have. The planning staff can be reached from 7 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Thursday, at plan_info@wyomingmi.gov or (616) 530-7258.

Once an application with relevant plans and information is submitted to the planning office, they will be promptly reviewed for approval. The full emergency order with application instructions can be found online at wyomingmi.gov/coronavirus.

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