2008-05-31 / News

Effort to fillvacant storefronts gets big boost

By Scott Rawdon

BALTIMORE - Baltimore's Empty Store Marketing Campaign Committee is putting its money where its mouth is.

The committee is partnering with a local lender to offer low interest loans to property owners wanting to improve the facades of their vacant Baltimore area storefronts. The FairfieldNational Bank committed $500,000 for loans to owners of vacant business buildings in Baltimore in support of the committee's initiative.

Fairfield National Bank Branch Manager Trudy Reeb made the announcement during the committee's May 20 meeting at the Village Hall. Signage is limited to $5,000 for each project and $75,000 is the maximum loan for individual projects. The interest rate is fixed for fiveyears at Wall Street Journal prime with a fivepercent floor rate. The FairfieldNational Bank loan may be used in conjunction with the FairfieldCounty Revolving Loan program where applicable.

More information is available on the village's web site at baltimoreohio. org.

Mayor Bob Kalish said the loans leverage a better opportunity to recruit businesses if some upgrades to vacant storefronts are necessary. "This is good news," he said.

The committee's goal, as its name implies, is to fill empty store space within the village. The committee is developing surveys, public relations material, and financial incentives.

Lou Varga of Varga Communications, Inc. said during the meeting that he's creating a promotional video to attract new businesses to town. The video will likely star local business owners who will "tell the story" of Baltimore Village. "It'll say, 'This is why we think you should locate your business here,'" said Varga.

Kalish said FairfieldCounty Economic Development Director William Arnett is helping the village compile survey information and a retail market analysis to determine how much retail space is available and where. Arnett suggested the village place all the information, once it's ready, online and easily accessible to anyone wanting to locate a business in Baltimore.

Varga suggested that the village should make itself open to criticism on any survey it circulates. It would be very helpful to the village, he said, to ask people what they think the village needs. Members of the committee said the village could use more cultural activities and suggested a blog devoted to Baltimore, maybe in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce.

"Small ideas, used together, make people aware of the community," said Varga.

Kalish said Columbus CEO Magazine will publish a story this summer highlighting Baltimore's partnership with the Fairfield National Bank as a positive public and private sector relationship, and Kalish said the Columbus Business First publication expressed an interest in highlighting the partnership as well.

Speaking of village improvements, Kalish mentioned Baltimore received two requests for funding through the Ohio State Capital Budget. The village received $50,000 for a business plan for the Baltimore Theatre and $25,000 for improvements to Alt Park. There was a dedication Sunday for new Alt Park equipment. Kalish said this was the first time the village's history it received money from the Ohio State Capital Budget.

The next meeting of the Empty Store Marketing Campaign Committee is June 24, 7 p.m. at the Village Hall.

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