A new rental subsidy program is being rolled out in the New Year in Downtown Howell.

The program is geared towards retail, dining, arts and entertainment-based businesses looking to locate their business in downtown Howell. Through the support of Lake Trust Credit Union, Howell Main Street Inc. will be able to provide rental assistance for up to the first 12 months that the business is in operation. Only two businesses will be accepted and funded under the program for the 2019 pilot program. In addition, the Howell Area Chamber of Commerce is offering a free year of Chamber membership to the selected businesses. Interested new businesses must complete an application of interest and meet various criteria that will help ensure the business can be successful in the long-run in downtown Howell.

Howell Main Street Chief Operating Officer Cathleen Edgerly tells WHMI the program idea was born out of past conversations with different partners in the state and modeled after some of the best ideas from across the country. Edgerly says the rental program was developed because they wanted to help small businesses but also help drive the types of businesses they want to see as well as those the community has indicates it wants to see. Edgerly says 2018 was a banner year with Howell being a Great American Michigan Main Street award winner and one of the top downtowns in the U.S. With that, she says they really started working with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Michigan Main Street and the local community on visioning for the future of the downtown, downtown development and what people want to see. Edgerly says they are blessed to only have a few vacancies downtown so the goal was how to get creative and really drive destinations people want to visit for shipping, dining, entertainment and the arts that will continue to make Howell an everyday destination for residents and visitors.

The rental assistance program is the first of its kind to debut in Michigan. Howell will pilot the program and after the initial year plans to work with Lake Trust, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, as well as the Michigan Main Street Center to offer a similar program in other communities. Applications and program details are available through the provided link. (JM)