Great to see accelerator project moving forward

Published 3:13 pm Sunday, September 10, 2023

Bowling Green Daily News

While large employers are vital for the health of a community, smaller, locally owned businesses are equally important.

They provide employment for many residents and often grow to become one of those larger employers. As retailers, they often offer goods and services not otherwise available.

Perhaps the main barrier to entry for these small businesses is cost, with rent being an especially heavy burden.

That’s why the community should celebrate last week’s news that a proposed small business accelerator is moving forward.

The former Save-A-Lot at 348 College St. was picked for the accelerator location last June.

The city entered an agreement with Houchens Industries and Housing Authority of Bowling Green nonprofit Live the Dream Development to turn the former grocery store into a rental space for businesses owned by refugee, minority and low-income populations.

Houchens Industries agreed to provide the building and up to $500,000 for renovations. The city put up $1 million and the state pitched in $600,000.

But the bids for the renovation work came back much higher than expected, with a current cost estimate of $3.6 million.

The project was put on hold for months as more funding was sought.

That’s when city officials struck on a creative idea – use funds earmarked for 2021 tornadoes recovery.

Among the corridors hit the hardest in the December tornadoes were the U.S. 31-W By-Pass and Russellville Road – places where small businesses could find affordable rents.

Brent Childers, director of Neighborhood and Community Services, said the loss of those spaces made using recovery funds viable.

The state agreed, and $1.5 million in West Kentucky State Aid Funding for Emergencies is now heading to Bowling Green to finish the project.

The accelerator should now be in business in the next year or so after renovation to the 18,000-square-foot budding are completed. When they are, local businesses will have the opportunity to rent space with their own front door access in a building with a new roof, a new facade, new restrooms and parking lot improvements. Rents will be kept to under $1,000 a month.

We commend city officials for working to come up with a creative financing option, as well as Houchens, the state and the city for putting up the funding.

We believe this project, which will turn a vacant eyesore into a vibrant business hub, is a great project that will benefit the entire city.