Main Street downtowns raise funds for recovery

Traditional suburban downtowns thrive on just the kind of businesses that have been shuttered during the pandemic--retail, dining, and personal care. Those same businesses--most of them independently owned--will also face a rocky re-entry as they adapt to new restrictions.

That's why Oakland County's Main Street program is making a special effort to help them through a COVID 19 Mom and Pop Business Relief Crowdfunding campaign designed to funnel funds to hurting downtown businesses. The county will match up to $4,000 dollar-for-dollar, and communities can crowdfund for as much as they like.

"The campaign is the first of its kind --  with multiple Main Street communities -- in the nation," says John Bry, principal planner and coordinator of Main Street Oakland County. "It is part of the economic response from the with the Oakland County Department of Economic Development & Community Affairs with 21 eligible communities participating."

Funds can be utilized for a range of activities -- from helping to cover rent and payroll to purchasing PPE.

"Each community designed their own campaign and will determine how they will use and disburse their funds," says Bry. "But they are all seeking the support they will pass on to their local businesses for things such as rent, payroll, supplies, marketing and purchasing additional PPE to distribute to their businesses and employees. It's another tool to help small businesses that may have a hard time getting funding from anywhere else."

Since its launch two and a half weeks ago, the campaign has raised more than $67,000. Some surprise big donations have included a $10,000 donation from marijuana dispensary New Standard to the Hazel Park Local Love campaign, which is nearing its $20,000 goal, and a $5,000 gift from William D. Seklar, president and CEO of the Birmingham Community House to the Birmingham Small Business Relief Fund.

Other standout campaigns include Stand With Small Business Madison Heights, which has raised more than $11,000 of its $15,000 goal after extending ts initial campaign, and the Lovin' Lathrup Village Business Relief Program, which is nearing its $6,000 goal.

Making a campaign that sticks requires "being persistent, and engaging people and using every medium of communication available to the community." says Bry. Downtown Farmington used volunteer creative labor to produce its Support Downtown Farmington Businesses campaign and is almost halfway to it's $5,000 goal.

So far, the overall community fundraising goals set by the communities totals a little over $200,000.  When matched with funds from Oakland County and additional match being provided by participating organizations and municipalities, Bry thinks that number will end up being much higher.

"We think the overall initiative will yield around $500,000 for additional small business relief to the Main Street Oakland County communities when all said and done," says Bry.

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