‘Downtown dreams’ aims to give Kawartha Lakes’ small businesses a shot in the arm

By Roderick Benns

Top: Downtown Lindsay. Ashley Webster, left, Denise Williams, right.

A project that aims to fill empty retail space and improve existing businesses is being launched this week by the City of Kawartha Lakes.

Downtown Dreams, as it’s called, is a business and growth program designed to attract new or existing businesses to open, expand or move into the downtowns of Coboconk or Norland, Fenelon Falls, Omemee, and Lindsay.

Plans for the program will focus on business attraction, marketing and business training and development.

Ashley Webster, communications, advertising and marketing officer for City of Kawartha Lakes, says applicants will be invited to share their business idea through their registration.

“An advisory panel will choose the top five applicants for each community to continue in the contest,” Webster says.

'Downtown dreams' aims to give Kawartha Lakes' small businesses a shot in the arm
Downtown Lindsay.

The top five must participate in five mandatory workshops, she notes, as well as submit a business plan. They also have to make a pitch to an advisory panel who will choose a winner for each community at a public event to be held June 6 at the Academy Theatre.

“Each winner will be presented with a prize package to facilitate the opening or expansion of their new business,” Webster says.

Interested participants will be able to apply for the program online as of March 2.

Denise Williams, acting manager of economic development for the City of Kawartha Lakes, says the competition all fits together with big plans for Kawartha Lakes’ downtowns.

“Downtown Dreams works alongside the downtown revitalization plans that our communities have been working hard on for the last two years,” she tells The Lindsay Advocate.

“The project aims to fill empty retail space with the right mix of specialty retail and services while helping local businesses to thrive,” Williams adds.

The total budget for the project is $124,300 with the City receiving up to $62,150 from the Rural Economic Development Program (RED), administered by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

Jeff Leal, minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs, notes this money “complements our government’s Main Street Revitalization Initiative which will help revitalize and enhance downtown areas while supporting the growth of small businesses across the province.”

“Expanding and attracting new businesses into our downtown areas helps to promote tourism, increase foot traffic, improve the streetscape, introduce more products and services and infuse more money into the local economy,” says Williams.

The Rules and Regulations for Downtown Dreams will be available on downtowndreams.org on March 2. Applications will be accepted between March 2 and March 23, 2018 online here.

As part of the registration, applicants will:

  1. Describe their business idea
  1. Explain the transferable skills or experience they have related to their business idea
  1. Describe their ideal client and provide basic market research
  1. Estimate start-up costs, outline potential investments and funding options

Since Downtown Dreams is a part of the Downtown Revitalization Action Plan implementation, it is only available to those communities that completed the Downtown Revitalization planning process, according to Webster.

“Bobcaygeon was not part of the Downtown Revitalization Action Plan and is therefore not part of the contest,” Webster says.

However, entrepreneurs from Bobcaygeon and other areas of Kawartha Lakes are encouraged to contact the Kawartha Lakes Small Business and Entrepreneurship Centre for assistance, guidance and resources to help to move their plans forward.

The Kawartha Lakes Small Business and Entrepreneurship Centre can be reached at 705-324-9411 extension 1283 or e-mail at .

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