Businesses in Matthews could be getting a face-lift, thanks to a new town initiative.
As part of an effort to better connect with local businesses, the town of Matthews is launching a Facade Enhancement Grant program in the Downtown Overlay District that will allow businesses to apply for funds to improve building exteriors.
Projects that may be eligible include: canvas-style awnings, removing paint from brick surfaces, cornice repairs, mortar repairs, masonry repairs and cleaning, and repair or replacement of windows and doors. Funding also can be used to remove facades or make pedestrian-friendly enhancements.
The Downtown Overlay District encompasses the heart of downtown Matthews (Trade and John streets) as well as areas along Sam Newell Road, Matthews Township Parkway, Monroe Road and Matthews-Mint Hill Road.
The grant is a 50-50 match, meaning the town of Matthews will pay for half the project as long as the business pays the other half.
The maximum grant per business is $2,500, said Assistant Town Manager Jamie Justice.
"We wanted to facilitate and incentivize improvements in our downtown," said Justice, who oversees the town's Economic Development Program. "This was a relatively quick and efficient way to bring some assistance."
"It could be as simple as a new awning," said Annette Privette-Keller, Matthews' communications director. "It's amazing how that makes a place look better."
Justice pitched the idea for the facade enhancement program to the town board in September and asked that they come up with parameters. Similar models have done well in other large cities and small towns, including Mooresville and Charlotte, Justice said.
"They've seen results and have had the program ongoing for years," said Justice.
Known for having small, independent businesses, the town of Matthews hopes the new program will maintain good relations with current businesses, as well as entice others to relocate to Matthews.
The Facade Enhancement Grant program is one of several initiatives by the Town Board and the Economic Development Advisory Committee to become better connected with community businesses.
The town has started listing available properties on its website - www.matthewsnc.com - for any business or commercial or industrial offices that might need room to expand.
The town is producing an economic development newsletter, has held two business summits and is preparing for a third in May (the theme has not been undecided).
Privette-Keller said they're also in the process of deciding whether Matthews would be a good site for a business incubator: A program designed to accelerate the successful development of start-up companies by offering support.
"Bankers and venture capitalists help (entrepreneurs) figure out a business plan," said Privette-Keller. "You're helping cultivate these small, fledgling businesses."
There are successful business incubators in Raleigh and at UNC Charlotte, said Privette-Keller. Studies have shown that start-up companies that go through incubation programs are more likely to stay in business long-term.
"We want people to know that you can come here and it be a business-friendly environment," said Privette-Keller. "We want (business owners) to understand that we're here to assist them as much as we can."