February 1, 2018 ⋅ By Summer Perritt
So you're thinking of starting a small business. This might be something you’ve thought about for years or perhaps a great idea just came to you overnight, but now what?
The first thing to consider is where you’d like your business to be located. In a big city commercial district? A small strip center? How about the downtown area? It is no secret that downtowns across America once lacked the booming success they held in the mid-twentieth century. But downtowns have made a comeback and Macon is no exception.
Downtown Macon is currently operating at 70 percent storefront occupancy, a 20 percent increase since 2012. This means that more and more small business owners are choosing to call Downtown Macon home. These new businesses are almost as diverse as the people that live and work here – restaurants that serve everything from Thai food to fresh juices and entertainment options that include an ‘escape room,’ a retrocade, and live music venues that range from intimate or theater setting.
With all the people that work and frequent the downtown area, the housing market has also seen a rise in recent years. There are currently close to 600 loft apartments in Downtown Macon with an occupancy rate of roughly 90% and many more loft projects underway. With each new residential space that is completed in Downtown Macon, an average of an additional $15000 dollars is spent annually on retail services in the downtown. An increase in residents will continue to create a higher demand for goods and services.
Due to the density of Downtown Macon, the historic core is a walkable place to live. Residents can work, complete daily errands and enjoy leisure activities all within Downtown Macon and without the use of a car. In other words, people are not only choosing to live downtown, they are choosing to spend their time and money here as well—making it a strong market for new businesses and expansions.
Macon is a social, cultural, and economic hub for the community and a culture of entrepreneurship is growing. For those seeking to become a part of the small business community, NewTown Macon and some of our local partners has resources available to get you started.
Remember any good business starts with a good business plan. Whether you need financing or not, you will need to draft a business plan to help guide the start-up or growth of your business, and almost all small business lenders require a business plan as part of the application process.
If you’ve never written a business plan or don't even know where to begin, check out the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) branch in Macon. A part of the University of Georgia’s statewide small business support network, Macon’s office offers a range of services for existing businesses and those looking to start one that include access to resources throughout the state. In addition to offering basic training on how to start or grow a business, the SBDC works with clients who are interested in working with a local bank to secure a 7(a) SBA small business loan.
Another resource available to aspiring business owners is the SCORE chapter of Middle-Georgia. SCORE is a volunteer-run organization comprised of retired and active business entrepreneurs who consult one-on-one with small business owners and provide a range of expertise from business plan coaching to HR advice. They also have workshops available throughout the year for those looking for some additional knowledge on starting or expanding a business.
NewTown Macon principally offers assistance to small businesses interested in locating downtown through two loan programs:
- The Real Estate Development Loan Fund is a program designed to help real estate developers or small business owners fund the purchase and renovation of a property in the downtown area. NewTown typically serves as a secondary lender or real estate projects, but additional funding options are available through this program for women and racial minorities.
- The Small Business Development Investment Fund is another loan program offered by NewTown Macon that provides loans to business start-ups and expansions. Loan funds can be used for the build-out of a commercial space, the purchase of inventory or equipment, or working capital.
An overview of the loan programs, an intake form, and a list of FAQs can be found online at http://www.newtownmacon.com/loans/
If you feel like you may need some training before you can successfully apply for a real estate or business development loan, NewTown Macon hosts the Developer’s Academy and will begin hosting an Entrepreneur’s Academy later in 2018. If you would like to sign-up to receive notifications on these courses, please contact NewTown at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The process of starting a business can be overwhelming no matter where you are, but starting a business in Macon makes the process just a little easier. With the resources, support and market, Downtown Macon is the perfect place for your small business.