AUGUSTA — A bill by Sen. Justin Chenette, D-Saco, would encourage revitalization of Maine downtowns by establishing a forgivable loan for startup businesses to create jobs.
The bill — LD 1343, “An Act To Promote Downtown Revitalization by Creating the Locating Businesses Downtown Loan Program” — received a public hearing before the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee on Wednesday.
The Communities For Maine’s Future Program, or CMF is part of a $25 million bond approved by voters in 2010, and provides competitive grants to municipalities for community development projects. Sen. Chenette’s bill creates the Locating Business Downtown Loan Program within the CMF, designed to provide forgivable loans to businesses looking relocate to a downtown area, village area or along a main street.
“When the downtown in a particular area does well and is vibrant, local municipalities get increased revenues which helps stabilize local tax rates beyond providing jobs to local residents,” said Sen. Chenette, who also sits on the City of Saco’s downtown development organization, Saco Main Street. “This bill provides key supports mechanisms and incentives for new startup businesses to increase economic development and create much needed jobs in our downtown communities.”
The bill is partly based on the Main Street Challenge, a local program launched in Biddeford that provides funds and assistance to new business ventures to help them with startup costs throughout their first year.
The executive director of GrowSmart Maine, Nancy Smith, spoke in favor of the bill at the public hearing.
“Downtown revitalization creates jobs, makes downtowns more attractive places to live, promotes energy efficiency and helps to preserve open space,” said Smith. “It makes good sense to add to the CMF program a dimension beyond the structures and infrastructure to assist business owners wanted to relocate in the downtown.”
LD 1343 faces further action in the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee and votes in the House and Senate.