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The Greater Chestertown Initiative (GCI) announced the formation of a new program – Open for Business in Chestertown – at their May 4th meeting. Open for Business is designed to provide “kickstarter” funding for new or expanding businesses with the goal of filling empty storefronts in the downtown.

Open for Business will invite entrepreneurs to submit requests for funding and through a juried process select those deemed most promising. Awards will be made in the form of matching funds and virtually interest free loans. The first cycle of funding is planned for Fall 2015 although applications will be considered as they are received.

Carla Massoni, who made the announcement at the May GCI meeting, said that she had been contacted by a couple who loved Chestertown and wanted to give back to the community but wished to remain anonymous.

The SFW Foundation (501c3) was created through their efforts to fund these business incentives. The Foundation has asked the Greater Chestertown Initiative to monitor the process of soliciting and reviewing applicants for the program. A review committee will evaluate applications and refer to the Foundation for final consideration the business proposals they recommend for funding.

The GCI, currently chaired by Lani Seikaly is an informal and independent coalition of leaders of organizations both non-profit and for-profit, community associations and government agencies, Washington College and other interested groups and individuals. The major work of GCI this year was to advocate for and support the town’s application for an Arts & Entertainment District designation from the Maryland State Arts Council. Other initiatives this past year included creating additional tourist events and additional Saturday and Sunday activities for First Friday weekends.

The Foundation has already pledged $25,000 in matching funds for the economic development director’s position in Chestertown’s budget for FY2015. The matching funds would move the position from part time to full time. GCI will work closely with the new economic development director to develop more tourist and community events and will serve as the major advisory committee for the proposed Arts & Entertainment District.

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