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Published: Thursday, 10/9/2008

Toledo mayor gives grants to 2 downtown businesses

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner handed over $5,000 checks this week to two small businesses that opened offices downtown under an incentive grant program that has doled out nearly $106,000 in about two years.

The mayor yesterday praised Palmer Energy Co. President Mark Frye for moving his business and seven employees from West Toledo into a vacant space on the second floor of 241 North Superior Ave.

A day earlier, Mr. Finkbeiner was outside 316 North Michigan St. to do the same for EDM Health Services, a private medical practice formerly located in South Toledo and overseen by Dr. Darrell Hall.

Mr. Finkbeiner said downtown is evolving to include a mix of entertainment and small businesses.

The incentive grant is one of several programs the city uses to help businesses and, in some cases, lure them downtown.

The mayor acknowledged that downtown has its challenges and has faced the loss of several big employers, but pointed out that HCR ManorCare would keep its nearly 700 jobs downtown thanks to a $4 million incentive package approved Tuesday by City Council.

The company is awaiting final state approval of:

•A 20-year, $10 million, zero interest loan.

•A 20-year, $11.64 million Ohio Enterprise Bond Fund loan at a rate to be determined at closing.

•A $1.5 million economic development contingency grant.

•A $2.9 million job-creation tax credit.

Robert Reinbolt, the mayor's chief of staff, said the investments that are made to help small businesses pay off for the city.

"What you are trying to do is add that little more enticement," Mr. Reinbolt said. "There are also challenges. There is a perception that parking is a challenge downtown, which it is not."

Restaurant and bar owners have taken advantage of the grant fund.

The city awarded $9,500 in September to Hot Peppers Cantina on Summit Street and, more recently, it handed over $7,500 to Organic Bliss of West Toledo to open a second location downtown.

Dave Amstutz, the city's director of development, said the program is helpful during difficult economic times.

"It's in times like these when we see the most job creation from small businesses, so that's why this is such a beneficial program," Mr. Amstutz said.

The city also hands out low-interest loans and a facade grant to businesses citywide.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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