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Westminster's business incubator program begins accepting applications this week

Westminster's new business incubator program is set to help downtown businesses grow in place.

Many business incubator programs across the county offer a temporary space and resources to nurture new businesses before sending them out on their own. The Downtown Westminster Business Incubator is not a place, but a program to help businesses get established in the downtown area and stay there for the long term, said Missie Wilcox, marketing consultant for the City of Westminster.

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"The purpose of the business incubator program is truly to help people grow a successful, sustainable business downtown," said Wilcox.

The program was announced Monday, and Wilcox said application forms will be available on the city's website,

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, by Monday.

The program is for retail or restaurant establishments in various stages of development, from entrepreneurs who only have a concept to established business owners who want to expand. Businesses may be offered grants up to $5,000 through the Community Preservation and Stewardship Corporation, the Washington, D.C., nonprofit that helped establish the program in partnership with the City of Westminster.

Loans up to $25,000 may also be available through Carroll County Economic Development. Successful applicants will also receive mentoring and additional resources through Carroll County Business Path, Navigator, Miller Center, Chamber of Commerce and Carroll Technology Council.

"Rather than fitting the business to a pre-arranged plan of action, we are going to tailor the plan of action to the business," said CPSC Executive Director Katherine Penn.

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CPSC works with developers receiving federal tax incentives to establish community reinvestment projects. Penn said the nonprofit became involved because its chairman of the board, Mark Einstein, owns property in downtown Westminster and wanted to help the Main Street corridor thrive.

Grant money can be used for operational expenses such as rent, software, payroll or advertising. Equipment and fixtures may be eligible if not covered by a loan.

A committee will review each application to determine the best way to assist each business owner. Applicants need a strong concept or summary business plan. The committee will also consider the suitability of the business in the downtown area.

"We are looking for compatibility," said Wilcox. "We want to increase the activity in the retail and restaurant arena."

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