The Downtown State College Improvement District will be helping local businesses make some improvements in the new year.

A new Small Business Grant Program launching in early 2024 is designed to help businesses and property owners with capital improvement projects, particularly facade and interior renovations.

“This funding will make a lasting impact on the community, fostering economic development, community engagement and a sense of pride,” DSCID Executive Director Lee Anne Jeffries said in a statement. “We believe that investing in the visual and functional aspects of our downtown businesses will not only attract more visitors but also stimulate economic growth for the long term.”

Grants of $1,000 to $5,000 will be awarded from a total pool of $50,000, Jeffries said. Any business, nonprofit or property owner located within the district’s borders — the area bounded by College Avenue, Highland Alley, Atherton Street and Sowers Street — will be eligible to apply for grants to support projects that will enhance aesthetics and functionality.

Successful applicants will be required to provide matching funds.

The concept for the grant program came from a “collaborative effort” as the DSCID looked for the best ways to spend special projects funds left over from COVID-impacted years when events were put on hold, Jeffries told

“A lot of that funding sat in our special projects fund and we’ve really been thoughtful about ways to spend that, and that came about from discussions with our Board of Directors and our Retail Advisory Committee,” she said. “We’ve got a short little list of things we want to accomplish and this was one of them.”

A representative of the Penn State Small Business Development Center who was on the committee and who had frequent conversations with business owners in need of assistance advised that a capital improvement grant program would be successful, Jeffries added.

Within hours of announcing the grant program on Friday, Jeffries had already fielded calls from several business owners who are interested in applying.

Businesses and property owners will be notified when applications open.

“We wanted to announce it over the holidays as kind of our gift to them,” Jeffries said. “Once we get through the holidays, we’ll open up the application and give them several weeks to get it in. It’s going to be a really simple application requiring some estimates. We’re going to go from there and see what the response is.”

If successful, the DSCID hopes to make the grant program a recurring initiative.

“We’re excited to see how it goes,” Jeffries said. “Next year really is a pilot year and if it’s successful and we can continue to find the funding we’d like to be able to continue it.”

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