Longtime businesses are getting help from the city to keep their doors open.
Denver Economic Development & Opportunity is accepting applications for the city's first-ever Legacy Business program. It's designed to protect and strengthen small, locally owned businesses that've been in Denver for a decade or more.
A Legacy Business is defined as a longstanding business that has contributed to community character and holds cultural significance.
"We knew the need for this program was critical, and that we must be very intentional about how we support these businesses," said Deborah Cameron, Chief Business Development Officer at DEDO. "This program is modeled after best practices and we are eager to establish and celebrate the first cohort with the ultimate goal of business preservation for years to come."
Legacy Businesses will provided be marketing collateral and offered technical assistance and training resources to strengthen operating systems. These businesses will also get customized referrals to city and state programs.
"Through our (Neighborhood Equity and Stabilization) index, we are measuring economic indicators, business indicators to identify areas where the rent is increasing or we know that it may be difficult for a business to make it," said Shelby Morse with DEDO.
NEST neighborhoods include Athmar Park, Barnum, Barnum West, Clayton, College View, East Colfax, Elyria Swansea, Globeville, Kennedy, Lincoln Park, Mar Lee, Montbello, Ruby Hill, Sun Valley, Valverde, Villa Park, Westwood, and Windsor.
The program is modeled after similar efforts in cities like San Francisco and Austin.
"Among other outcomes, we expect to hear inspiring stories of how Legacy Businesses foster a sense of belonging, customer and employee loyalty, and stability. The goal of this program is to ensure these businesses are not displaced," Cameron added.
Dazzle has been bringing live music to the Mile High City for 26 years. Owner Donald Rossa has watched the city change and businesses come and go.
"I think the challenge is the changing demographic. Staying relevant to the demographic," said Rossa. "I think growth can be positive. And I think growth can be somewhat negative at times. But I think it's how you bring your team together, how you look at it and make it work."
Rossa's grateful that music lovers have kept his business alive. He hopes the city's program will help keep Denver favorites from fading.
"We need to protect the beauty of our businesses and also our buildings to keep legacy alive," said Rossa.
To qualify, a business must be in operation for more than ten years, has annual gross revenue between $30,000 and $5M, and currently has a brick-and-mortar location in one of the city's 18 NEST neighborhoods.
Applications are open. Guidelines, eligibility criteria, and more info are available online.
The initial round for applications will close October 5, 2023, with the first slate of designees planned for later this year.
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