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Dayton looks to attract more 'first floor' businesses with $7M in primary and forgivable loans

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The goal is "to activate more first floor areas into restaurants, bars, salons — a variety of places like that that will drive walkability ... to continue the Dayton comeback, if you will,” says CityWide President Dan Kane.

The First Floor Fund will hand out $7 million of primary and forgivable loans to startups and existing businesses willing to locate on the first floor of a Dayton, Ohio, building.

Dayton, like so many other cities, has too many vacant first floors, and that’s a concern for developers who want to increase walkability.

CityWide Development Corporation is administering the fund for the city of Dayton. “The goal is to activate more first floor areas into restaurants, bars, salons — a variety of places like that that will drive walkability and drive that vibrancy to try to continue the Dayton comeback, if you will,” says CityWide President Dan Kane.

Dayton wants to target specific business owners

“The First Floor Fund program will go a long way toward providing economic stabilization and access to capital for small retail businesses," he adds. "This program will help mitigate COVID-related, systemic funding and economic challenges especially facing small, women-owned and minority-owned businesses.”

A Dayton news release says out of nearly 200 of these types of businesses in downtown Dayton, 38% are woman-owned, and 22% are minority-owned. Because startups like these are less likely to have obtained loans from traditional lenders, they were not able to leverage those relationships when federal Paycheck Protection Program loans became available in 2020.

The FFF will fill a critical financing gap and aims to propel the growth of Dayton's entrepreneurial ecosystem by adding a missing piece to the network of programs and support offered by organizations including The Hub at the Arcade; the Greater West Dayton Incubator; the Dayton Human Relations Council; Minority Business Partnership; Miami Valley SBDC; Retail Lab; Launch Dayton; and other small business support services.

How to apply

FFF applications will be accessible by mid-October through the CityWide website (citywidedev.com). The city of Dayton and CityWide will announce when the application site is live via their websites and social media channels.

Applicants will need to have several documents in place to apply, such as a business plan, financial forecasting model and other key elements. To identify a service provider who can help with creating tools for small business success, visit the resources page at LaunchDayton.com or stop in at the Miami Valley Small Business Development Center in the Arcade, 31 S. Main St.

Ann Thompson has years of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting. She has reported for WKRC, WCKY, WHIO-TV, Metro Networks and CBS/ABC Radio. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2019 and 2011 A-P named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology in Focus on Technology