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Pennsylvania Gov. Shapiro visits West Philadelphia to pitch investment in small businesses

Gov. Shapiro's Main Street Matters proposal could boost small businesses
Gov. Shapiro's Main Street Matters proposal could boost small businesses 01:57

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – More money could be coming to small businesses across Pennsylvania. At least, that's the plan from Governor Josh Shapiro.

The Democrat was in Philadelphia Thursday to tout his "Main Street Matters" program, a proposed $25 million investment to boost the small business community.

"Every community is linked with a Main Street," Shapiro said at Two Locals Brewing Company in University City. "And you can often tell the health and vitality of the community based on the strength of that Main Street."

Shapiro toured the 52nd Street business corridor in West Philly and spoke at the brewery to push his proposal. Two Locals recently opened near 36th and Market, and co-founder Mengistu Koilor said he was happy to host the Governor.

"It's huge," said Koilor. "It shows that he cares, and I'd like to see other businesses get the same sort of support as well."

Support for small businesses is what Shapiro said Main Street Matters aims to bring. The proposed $25 million would be used in multiple ways, according to the governor. One would be a direct investment in businesses, something Koilor says is vital.

"Always, it's access to capital and funding," Koilor said. "That's what keeps us going."

A second investment would come in the form of cleaning up business corridors in Pennsylvania. Shapiro noted infrastructure improvements like lighting and walkability in his remarks.

The plan is seen as a win by West Philadelphia Corridor Collaborative President Jabari Jones, who said businesses need this help.

"Our businesses are very clear: They need investment, they need capital, and they need to bring back customers," Jones said. "A lot of these business corridors need a lot of tender loving care, and we need to make sure they're inviting so that we have something to invite residents and visitors back and encourage them to shop locally."

Jones said that while things have improved for West Philly small businesses over the last few years, they still haven't recovered from the pains of the pandemic. He says many businesses are struggling to get traffic as interest rates have been high and online shopping has seen a boost. Plus, many businesses that closed during COVID-19 never reopened or were replaced.

"It's unfortunate, I've seen a lot of persistent vacancies," Jones said.

READ MORE: Low-income earners feeling hopeful as Pa. Gov. Josh Shapiro repeats commitment to $15 minimum wage

While Jones said state funds going directly to small businesses is great, he believes money to improve the business corridors can be an even bigger win. Jones believes improvements like greenery, uniform signage, better marketing, and more can draw in customers and new small businesses.

"If we can make our corridors look better, make them more inviting, hopefully that will encourage new businesses to take some of these vacant storefronts," Jones said.

But this plan is still just a proposal and will have to get through Pennsylvania's divided state legislature, which just went through a lengthy budget fight last year. Still, Shapiro believes now is the time for the state to act, and cited Pennsylvania's current $14 billion budget surplus.

State lawmakers also say they see this not as just an investment in small businesses, but an investment in communities as a whole.

"It's those restaurants and those shops on the corridor that are the lifeblood to communities," Democratic State Rep. Jordan Harris said.

When asked if he believes they'll be able to get the proposal through, the governor replied he is "very confident."

You can read Shapiro's full budget proposal here.

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