BIDDEFORD, Maine — City business leaders want more company in the downtown and they’ve pooled together three $20,000 incentive package to entice entrepreneurs with good ideas.
The downtown organization Heart of Biddeford is launching its first Biddeford Main Street Challenge, in which three new or expanding businesses will be awarded suites of wide-ranging perks. Before claiming the startup packages, however, the three winning entrepreneurs must go through three playofflike rounds of review in which local judges will evaluate their spark, financial plans and future promise.
“This competition will draw a great range of business concepts, and the committee will select three businesses that will create a draw to downtown Biddeford,” said city Economic and Community Development Director Daniel Stevenson, one of the aforementioned judges, in a statement. “By November, we’ll see three great new additions to downtown that are truly set up to succeed.”
The spoils awaiting the trio of top new business developers includes: six months of free rent in one of the city’s historic downtown storefronts; $6,000 of in-kind services such as legal and accounting assistance, sign and website design, photography and video production, free advertising through the Biddeford-Saco Chamber of Commerce, and a year of free telephone and Internet service; a $10,000 forgivable loan; and financial aid from the Biddeford Saco Area Economic Development Commission.
“We were amazed at how much the community was willing to step forward to add to this incentive package,” Heart of Biddeford Executive Director Delilah Poupore said in a statement. “The people of Biddeford are saying, ‘How can we help?’”
The first round of competition involves a one- to two-page “pitch” to be submitted by participating entrepreneurs by March 23. Applications can be picked up at the Heart of Biddeford office at 205 Main St., at partner businesses and City Hall, or downloaded from the organization’s website.
The panel of judges will pick up to 10 submissions to forward on to the second round, in which the business hopefuls will need to turn in complete business plans. A group of six semifinalists then will be chosen for in-person interviews with the judges committee, which will pare the list down to the winning three for a June 4 announcement.
Heart of Biddeford organizers said that “priority will be given to projects that fill first floor vacancies, expand the downtown business mix and have the highest potential to draw customers downtown.”
Second or third satellites of an existing business or downtown businesses seeking to expand are eligible for the contest, according to an organization announcement.