How Small Businesses Find Footing in Cozy Communities

In 2015, CNN named Frederick, Maryland, one of the best “comeback towns” in the United States. The article called the city center “nearly chain-proof,” with its array of small and independent businesses.

The same thing is happening around the country: Entrepreneurs are breathing new life into forgotten or neglected properties and building a new commercial infrastructure. Residents of small towns are welcoming business owners, and some governments have even created incentives to encourage businesses to set-up shop.

Small Business Incentives

The City of Frederick offers several incentives for small businesses, such as:

  • Vacant Commercial Property Tax Credit – This tax credit is for entrepreneurs who rehabilitate a property that’s been vacant for at least 18 of the past 24 months.
  • Arts & Entertainment District Tax Credit – This incentive includes an artist income tax credit, a property tax credit, and the abatement of arts & entertainment tax for qualifying arts and entertainment businesses.

State-level incentives include:

  • Small Commercial Tax Credit – The Maryland Historical Trust offers an income tax credit of 20 percent for qualifying rehabilitation projects less than $500,000.
  • Maryland Venture Fund – The MVF provides start-up and early-stage investments in innovative companies (in fields such as cybersecurity, healthcare, and communications).

The Rise of the ‘Maker Space’

While many small town storefronts are relatively affordable, entrepreneurs may not have the capital to buy their own space – at least not immediately. A new kind of business model allows people to get their businesses up and running without breaking the bank: sharing space, and sometimes sharing equipment.

Maker spaces, or co-working spaces, are facilities in which entrepreneurs run independent businesses while sharing resources, equipment, and/or overhead costs. It’s a great opportunity for businesses that want to be downtown, but not incur downtown-related costs.

Building a Following

Town centers that fell into decline over the years lost much of the usual foot traffic – if there are no businesses to serve customers, people may have very little reason to go downtown. But as more entrepreneurs move into downtown spaces, residents are returning.

Ask any local, and they’ll likely tell you they’d rather support a homegrown business than a big-box retailer in the suburbs. Local companies that market themselves well and engage with their customers can be extremely successful in building brand awareness.

Getting Started

Launching a small business requires careful planning. In addition to talking to an accountant, aspiring entrepreneurs should meet with an experienced business attorney.

Lusk Law, LLC, understands the challenges small businesses may encounter, because we are small business owners, too. We’ve helped numerous clients in the start-up phase, and throughout the life of their business, to anticipate and prepare for changes in the economy, leadership, regulations, and in most every aspect of running a successful enterprise. If you need legal advice for your small business, contact Lusk Law, LLC, to schedule a consultation.

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