Grant program aims to reverse trend of disappearing businesses in downtown Winnipeg
A new grant program aims to help struggling businesses in downtown Winnipeg recover from the effects of the pandemic and attract new establishments to fill vacant storefronts.
The Manitoba Chambers of Commerce and the Government of Manitoba have partnered to offer the Downtown Building Business Program.
The $2.5 million program will be used to support existing businesses in improving space and business development, with 20% reserved for BIPOC-owned businesses and an additional 20% allocated to women-owned businesses .
It also includes funding to connect businesses to empty downtown storefronts and help improve run-down locations.
The program will be administered by the Downtown Action Team, an initiative of the Downtown Winnipeg Business Improvement Area as part of its Downtown Revitalization Framework. The team includes representatives from poverty reduction and community support organizations, as well as members from the arts and culture sectors.
“We want to welcome people downtown with streets full of unique and successful businesses where people want to shop, explore and work,” Kate Fenske, CEO of Downtown BIZ, said at a press conference. Monday.
With public health orders forcing some stores to close and many offices switching to remote working due to COVID-19, many businesses have lost customers and business in the downtown area is still not back to pre-pandemic levels.
More than 70 businesses have closed downtown since the pandemic began, and for every business that opens, two are closing, Fenske said.
“The Building Business program will help reverse this trend and bring us back to where we were in 2019, when we had such great momentum.”
A downtown business owner who has previously received funding through the Downtown Winnipeg Connect program, which was designed to help businesses adapt and build their capacity to generate revenue, said programs like this have kept him afloat through tough times.
« It’s helped me save time…to support my staff and customers and reinvent our business, » said Tim Yuen, owner of 9Fitness.
The ground floor vacancy rate in downtown Winnipeg is around 30 per cent, or 150 storefronts, Fenske said.
The objective of the program is to reduce this by 25% within two years.