The economy isn’t encouraging businesses to expand, but a new Turlock program is providing exactly the incentive some businesses need – $1,000 in cold, hard cash— to encourage entrepreneurs to follow their dreams.
This week, the City of Turlock handed out checks to the first three new businesses to participate in the program – industrial fluid sealing product manufacturer Mid Valley Seals, youth fitness and recreation-focused Kid Time Fitness Company, and home décor and gift shop A Little Bit of This.
With a few conditions, the Turlock Business Partnership Incentives Program offers that startup cash to any new business opening up shop in an existing, unoccupied and appropriately zoned storefront.
“It's a fairly easy process,” said A Little Bit of This Owner Kim Smith. “It's really not any more than you would have to do opening your own business in the first place.”
Applicants must meet with the Turlock Planning Division for a predevelopment meeting, discussing various city requirements and true costs of a project. After opening, some minor record keeping is required including the number of new hires and sales figures compared to projections.
Perhaps the most onerous part of the process is filling out a comprehensive business plan, with the help of the Alliance Small Business Development Center. Tanaia Green, Kid Time Fitness Company owner, said the business plan process, while somewhat arduous, was a good opportunity to put all the facts down on paper – and to have a business expert see if it all made sense.
“It was nice to have someone else look at everything,” Green said.
The requirement is intended to ensure owners understand their business from top to bottom, from production costs to marketing, potential customers, where to locate, and how much staffing is needed. It’s also intended to ensure entrepreneurs really are serious about being successful, according to Heidi McNally-Dial, Turlock redevelopment and economic development manager.
“The biggest part of the business plan is to really encourage the businesses to think about it,” McNally-Dial said.”We want the businesses to be successful.”
A successful business means a successful return on investment for the City of Turlock – and the business owner.
So far, all three businesses have been busy. Smith said business has been steady since her July opening, with the nearby Turlock Certified Farmers Market driving shoppers through her doors. In Kid Time Fitness Company’s year of existence – an April expansion triggered program eligibility – the company has grown to offer classes in everything from art to cheerleading, with recreation program partnerships around the county. Mid Valley Seals is already pondering expanding – though not in the immediate future.
But, perhaps most importantly, all three business owners are able to follow their dreams, be they a passion for home décor, owning a manufacturing business, or a love of childhood fitness.
“There really needed to be a place where kids of all ages and abilities could come and experience recreation in a fun, noncompetitive environment,” Green said.
From entrepreneurs’ perspectives, the $1,000 incentive has made a sizable difference. Smith said she’s been able to purchase more inventory. Green said the incentive has helped offset the sizable costs of expanding into a long-vacant storefront. And Mid Valley Seals owner Rick Jennings said the cash just went to various bills, but was appreciated nonetheless.
“It really was a wonderful part of doing business here in Turlock,” Jennings said. “It was nice to see the city providing incentives for new businesses.”
From Turlock’s perspective, the program’s benefits are threefold: new jobs come to Turlock, new tax dollars come to the city, and unsightly vacant storefronts become bustling businesses.
“I think this is one of their outside-the-box thinking ways of trying to attract businesses,” Jennings said. “I think they're on the right track.”
For this fiscal year, Turlock has allocated $150,000 to the program. With three participants already – and as many as 20 more showing some interest in the program – the funding isn’t expected to run out anytime soon, but may become limited over time.
For as long as it lasts, the Business Partnership Incentives Program participants said it’s a reason for any entrepreneur to look at Turlock when deciding to do business.
“It's a great program,” Smith said. “I think that anybody looking at opening a business, if they’re not looking at Turlock, it's a great advantage and a reason to look at Turlock.”
A Little Bit of This is located at 200 W. Main St., and is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Kid Time Fitness Company is located at 334 N. Center St.; class schedules are available at KidTimeFitnessCompany.com. Mid Valley Seals is located at 3110 Commerce Way.
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.