GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Building a better city - but especially a better downtown - is a goal that one local organization has been making a lot of progress on lately.
Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. has been working towards that goal in a number of ways.
"I think as a community, it's upon us to kind of work together to create an environment that's good for small business," said Tim Kelly, president and CEO of Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.
The organization has been using a new program that is a retailer grant and a small businesses support grant.
"We've been very excited to see it utilized this year, and we've been able to support new businesses coming to downtown," Kelly said.
Kelly says the small business support grant is all about helping business owners navigate barriers, specifically those that might otherwise prevent them from opening brick-and-mortar stores.
"We are looking for hustlers and entrepreneurs and people that maybe have an idea and maybe have started it somewhere else, whether online or maybe some other space, maybe outside the city," he said.
So far, the program has attracted a handful of applicants, including a new business, Ambiance GR, which is a kitchen and lounge and a small entertainment venue looking to open its doors very soon.
"We don't have too many nightclubs in Grand Rapids, and so what we're excited to do is kind of bring that feeling back," said Jonathan Jelks with Ambiance GR.
"We have a lot of breweries, we have a lot of bars, but there aren't a lot of places that are a combination of both, where you can also enjoy live entertainment, music and dance," he said.
Jelks says opening a business downtown GR likely wouldn't be possible without the help that Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. has provided.
"Doing a business downtown Grand Rapids is extremely laborious," he said. "It takes a lot of time, and it takes a lot of resources."
"I think we've seen a lot of new development over the past three years," Kelly said. "We're in one of the largest development booms in the city's history, and we know there's more to come, but I think to date we have been very successful," he said.
To learn more about getting a grant, click here.