2020 program has helped six Madison small businesses become property owners

2020 program has helped six Madison small businesses become property owners

In June 2020, Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway announced the Commercial Ownership Assistance program, which aims to help current small businesses buy their own space.

The creator and manager of the program, Michael Miller, a business development specialist for the City of Madison, said that in the 2 ½ years of this program, it has helped six businesses transition from renting to buying their own property.

“The inspiration behind the program was to help business owners who have been in business for a while,” Miller said. “And help them transition from renting space to owning their own space. The reasoning for that is to help the business expand as well as owning their own property and creating that kind of economic empowerment in their business.”

One goal of the project was to help marginalized business owners. Miller said out of the businesses the program has helped, 67% of owners are Black, Indigenous, or People of Color, 83% are women, 16% identify as LGBTQ+ and 16% are veterans, another target group.

To receive aid, businesses must be in service for at least three years. They can receive no more than 25% of the cost of the building in aid, up to $250,000.

This aid can be forgiven, if the business continues. Miller said if the business stays open for at least seven years, it only has to pay back 50% of the aid it received. If the business is open at least 14 years, it doesn’t owe the city anything. Miller said the reason they have this standard is so businesses are not taking advantage of the aid to sell the property right away for profit.

Jim and Dora Monroe are a couple who have benefited from the Commercial Ownership Assistance Program. They each own a business that they operate in one building. Dora has a cleaning service called Class A Cleaning, and James runs Madison Media Services.

Jim said that after 15 years of paying rent, they were starting to look into buying their own property. Then the city emailed them about the assistance program. So they worked with Miller and his team to buy the property with the city’s aid. They plan to keep their businesses open for many more years and hope to not have to repay the aid they received.

“It helped a lot. It’s a phenomenal program. It brought our mortgage down,” Jim said. “We’re not a superstar business. We’re a surviving and to a great degree, thriving business, but we’re not millionaire type businesses. We’re community-centered businesses. Our main concern is trying to help people.”

Jim said he hopes the city will continue to have programs like this because it helps small businesses to take opportunities they may not have had.

Currently, the program is in the city budget for $500,000 each year. Miller said he is thankful for the mayor's support and he hopes the city will continue to support the program so they can help more businesses.

“That support is very meaningful. It may do with what we're doing a lot easier. And it continues to keep giving in regards to our gratitude, and how we see it every day,” Miller said. “If it were not for what they did, maybe we would be struggling with bills a bit more.”


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