Indiana nonprofit aids businesses with beautification funds

INDIANAPOLIS — An Indiana nonprofit group is helping small businesses get off the ground through grants that pay for sprucing up their facades with fresh paint, business signs, lighting and other improvements, which make new establishments more attractive to patrons.

The Local Initiatives Support Corp.’s Small Business Facade Improvement program has awarded more than $3 million to Marion County businesses since 2004, the Indianapolis Business Journal reported.

Businesses can qualify for grants of up to $25,000 for facade improvements, such as new signage, entryway improvements, exterior painting and new windows.

While the improvements may appear cosmetic, they can have a large impact, said Tedd Grain, deputy director for LISC’s Indianapolis office. Numerous grant recipients are thriving, and areas once struggling are now prospering, he said.

“It helps prime the pump. It improves the beauty of a corridor. It reduces blight,” Grain said. “There’s a lot of things we’re trying to do with the program.”

Areas across the city are seeing improvements, said Susan Vogt, director of economic development at the community development organization Near East Area Renewal.

“I think it helps to set a tone for business improvements along a corridor,” Vogt said. “A lot of times, it’s a struggle for the business to make those improvements. It’s a nice leg up.”

The nonprofit started 2018 with a grant-funding pool of $575,000 from various public and private sources. The city of Indianapolis’ Community Development Block Grant program, the Lilly Endowment, the Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership and State Farm contributed funds.

LISC will focus on awarding grants in specific neighborhoods for the rest of the year. Clustering the grants helps maximize the program’s impact, Grain said.