STERLING — Sterling’s retail incubator has been named the recipient of a $50,000 hometown grant from T-Mobile, it was announced Thursday.
The money will be used for construction costs “to bring these incubator units to life,” said Sterling Main Street chief executive Janna Groharing.
The Shoppes at Grandon Plaza are six freestanding storefronts being built on a lot at 310 Second Avenue adjacent to the Grandon Civic Center.
[ Sterling Main Street announces plans to have business incubator. ]
The opening is planned for spring 2023.
According to Groharing, Sterling Main Street has launched a portal on its website – https://www.sterlingmainstreet.org/shoppes-at-grandon-plaza/ – for startup companies to apply to become the first tenants. These applications are due by December 31st.
If everything goes according to plan, an independent jury will select the providers who can move in in April by February.
Open for Business signs may be posted through May.
When it started, the project had an estimated cost of $250,000 – the lot itself was donated by Sterling Today Inc.
Sterling Main Street has been looking for investors, but the grant is good news to move things forward.
The stores themselves are 12-foot by 16-foot, single-story “chalets” designed by McCloud and Associates Architecture and being built by construction students at the Whiteside Area Career Center.
Each store can be rented for eight months for $300 per month. Things will be timed so that each group of startups can operate during the holiday shopping season — and then hopefully have the funds to seek permanent digs.
Sterling Main Street, along with the Small Business Development Center and the Sauk Valley Area Chamber of Commerce are partners who will provide training and mentoring to the new business owners.
The site is designed to bring more foot traffic to the northeast end of the downtown business district.
The construction of the incubator coincides with the revitalization of Central Park – which will receive a splash guard, sidewalks and benches.
Groharing said she believes there were more than 400 applicants for this round of Hometown Grants. In the end 25 were chosen.
T-Mobile launched the $25 million initiative in April 2021 to fund projects in communities with fewer than 50,000 residents while bringing 5G cellular service to rural America.
Recipients will be selected by T-Mobile partners Main Street America and Smart Growth America.
“The T-Mobile Hometown grant program has had a tremendous impact in small town and rural communities across the county,” said Hannah White, interim CEO of Main Street America. “Grantees have renovated historic spaces, built new playgrounds and parks, and spurred innovative placemaking projects that bring community members together in new and meaningful ways. We are excited to partner with T-Mobile and Smart Growth American to continue this important work in places all too often overlooked.”
Groharing said she’s been aware of Hometown Grants since their inception, but Sterling Main Street needed a project proposal worth considering before applying.
Last year, for example, the Historic Dixon Theater was a recipient of one such Hometown Grant.
[ Dixon Theatre gets Hometown Grant in 2021. ]
Sterling was the only Illinois city to receive a grant. In the Midwest, Storm Lake, Iowa received one for its Harmony Garden, a center for downtown multicultural gatherings; Kendallville, Indiana, got one to start an incubator; and New Richmond, Wisconsin received one for a VFW Post’s Freedom Park Center to provide health and wellness services to veterans, seniors and youth.
“Hometown grants really make a difference in small towns,” said Jon Freier, president of Consumer Group at T-Mobile. “In addition to the $6.8 million we have provided to our 150 grantees to date, we have also seen $2 million in matched funding from other local resources, which is tremendous. It is humbling to see T-Mobile making a positive and lasting impact on communities across the country, both through our grant funding and by giving back to small businesses.”