By Naeisha Rose
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced two projects to help keep money in the pockets of small business owners in Jamaica.
The first program he unveiled was a $500,000 investment in storefront upgrades. The storefront improvement upgrade will provide around 30 business owners with up to $20,000 in grants from the Economic Development Corporation to enhance signage and displays throughout the area. The developments will also include façade restorations, new awnings and exterior painting. The application process launched July 18, the day of the announcement, and the deadline is Sept. 19. The applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis, according to the mayor’s office.
The mayor also announced the Department of Consumer Affairs’ free educational inspection initiative, which is called the Visitor Inspector Program, according to his office.
Conducted by Consumer Affairs, the enterprise will teach 3,500 new brick and mortar licensed entrepreneurs how to stay in compliance with city laws and not incur penalties while running their businesses.
Entrepreneurs would have to schedule their free inspection within three months of obtaining a business license, according to de Blasio’s office.
De Blasio said the upgrades and free instructive lessons would help to increase foot traffic in the Jamaica area and help business owners take on new hires by skirting fines.
“We’re working with small businesses to boost sales, lower costs and employ more people,” said de Blasio. “The city is reducing fines, increasing compliance, and investing in brick-and-mortar storefronts. Vibrant commercial hubs like downtown Jamaica are made possible by the entrepreneurial spirit of small business owners, and we’ll support them with innovative city programs.”
The city agency will do violation-free inspections with seasoned examiners who will go over licensing laws, workplace laws, the Consumer Protection Law, and the Paid Sick Leave Law. One year later, after entrepreneurs hopefully grasp these laws, they will then get to experience an official inspection, according to the mayor’s office.
Thomas Grech, the executive director of the Queens Chambers of Commerce, was enthusiastic about the initiative.
“The Queens Chamber of Commerce is very happy to support the VIP initiative,” Grech said. “This program dovetails well with our educational focus and supports small business awareness throughout Queens County and beyond.”
Hope Knight, the president and CEO of the Greater Jamaica Development Corp., was quick to highlight the importance of the storefront upgrades.
“Small businesses are the backbone of the economy and public-sector support helps to ensure their longevity,” Knight said. “Innovative city programs like the SBS’s ‘Storefront Improvement Program’ not only bolster ‘mom-and- pop shops,’ but lay the foundation for neighborhood growth.”
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose