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4 downtown Johnson City startup businesses get grants from JCDA

Nathan Baker • Updated Sep 13, 2017 at 6:57 PM

The Johnson City Development Authority’s Economic Vitality Team is in the business-building business, and, apparently, business is good.

On Monday, a panel of four judges awarded $15,000 in Downtown Strong grants to four businesses recently opened or soon-to-be-opened in the city’s downtown. Their owners completed the nine-week Co.Starters class for small business owners and each made a pitch for their business to the panel.

The Development Authority partnered with AccelNow, an entrepreneur mentoring organization, to hold the nationally recognized business building class. The aim of the coursework is to help people who have an idea for a new business bring that idea to fruition, leaning on others who have gone before them.

“It’s different from other plans you get through small business development organizations,” Dianna Cantler, the JCDA’s liaison and downtown development director for the Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership. “They work through an idea from start to finish, looking at the product, the market, challenges they might face, with help from account marketers, attorneys and small business owners.

“All of the speakers talk about aspects of developing small businesses people might not have anticipated, and following the end of the nine weeks, they will have determined whether it could be successful, who the customers is and the best ways to market.”

The grand-prize winner, owners of Skillville, were awarded $5,000 for their concept of a community shop and maker space that will allow customers classes and shop space in woodworking, metalwork, refinishing and more. The new business plans to open this fall at the corner of West Market and Montgomery streets.

“He’s really going to be building a multi-generational community with that service,” Trevor Tetzlaff, chair of the Development Authority’s Economic Vitality Team and a judge for the pitch event, said of Skillville owner Seth Thomas. “He’s going to be offering a maker space, he’s going to have opportunities to have adults that on the side want to do things like welding or wood work, and eventually, with the business model he’ll be able to help people make what they’re interested in. People now get caught up in college and work and things like that and they don’t do things with their hands anymore. With this, they’re learning to do things for themselves.”

Other winners receiving $3,300 grants:

— Boomtown and Co., which opened last month on Spring Street. The popular T-shirt company has had a kiosk in the Mall at Johnson City, and chose downtown for its first brick and mortar store.

— Blowtique, the Tri-Cities first blow dry bar and boutique. Blow dry bars have been popular in large metro cities for several years, and women will enjoy the pampering they will receive at this location.

Barley Waters, a craft beer market that will open on the corner of East Main and Spring streets in old Tennessee National Bank/Jones-Vance building. This tap room will offer the opportunity to purchase from a selection of over 200 beers. A cross between a tap room and retail market, Barley Waters will also offer informal beer education opportunities.

The Downtown Strong grant is a project facilitated by the Economic Vitality team of the JCDA. This team, part of the board’s efforts to rejoin the National Main Street program, focuses on capital, incentives, and other economic and financial tools to assist new and existing businesses, catalyze property development, and create a supportive environment for entrepreneurs and innovators that drive local economies.

Tetzlaff said each of the businesses receiving grants will bring something new to downtown Johnson City and help create a diverse business environment, an important pillar for economic health of an area.

Another Co.Starters class will start in January, Cantler said, and the JCDA has applied for another state grant to bolster new business efforts.

“We’re trying to change the economic forecast for the downtown,” she said. “We’re always looking at ways to help build retail space and help entrepreneurs.”

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Previously reported:

Four new businesses opening in downtown Johnson City just got a little help.

The Johnson City Development Authority awarded a total of $15,000 in funds for four new businesses in the process of opening. Downtown Strong grants were given to business owners who completed a nine-week Co.Starter class with plans to open a business in the downtown district.

The grand winner was a new business, Skillville, which will be opening this fall at West Market and Montgomery Streets. Skillville was awarded $5,000. This business will offer classes on woodworking, metalwork, refinishing and much more.

Other winners receiving $3,300 grants:

— Boomtown and Co., which opened last month on Spring Street. The popular t-shirt company has had a kiosk in the Johnson City Mall, and choose downtown for its first brick and mortar store.

— Blowtique, the Tri-Cities first blow dry bar and boutique. Blow dry bars have been popular in large metro cities for several years, and women will enjoy the pampering they will receive at this location.

— Barley Waters, a craft beer market that will open on the corner of East Main and Spring Streets in old Tennessee National Bank/Jones-Vance building. This tap room will offer the opportunity to purchase from a selection of over 200 beers. A cross between a tap room and retail market, Barley Waters will also offer informal beer education opportunities.

The Downtown Strong grant is a project facilitated by the Economic Vitality team of the JCDA. This team, part of the National Main Street program, focuses on capital, incentives, and other economic and financial tools to assist new and existing businesses, catalyze property development, and create a supportive environment for entrepreneurs and innovators that drive local economies.

According to a JCDA news release, the Economic Vitality Team’s goal is to fill the first floor retail spaces in the downtown core with quality, economically stable retailers that fit into a list of desired categories. This team will help new business owners find the ideal space in downtown, offer support, share available resources and encouragement to be successful.

To find out more about how the JCDA can assist business owners open a location in downtown Johnson City, contact Dianna Cantler, Director of Downtown Development at the Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership office at 423-202-3510.

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