Association aims to provide ‘launchpad’ in 2020

There is still time to apply for Vancouver’s Downtown Association’s new business competition

Downtown Vancouver
Courtesy of Vancouver’s Downtown Association. Vancouver’s Downtown Association recently launched a regional competition – titled the Downtown Vancouver Launchpad – providing an incentive package worth up to $40,000 for one selected retail business that will open in Vancouver’s downtown in 2020.

After Vancouver’s Downtown Association’s (ADA) Economic Vitality Committee heard about a program in the Baltimore, Maryland area called the Remington Storefront Challenge, the volunteer-led group knew that it was something that could be beneficial for the downtown Vancouver area.

“The EV Committee loved the unique way that the Remington Storefront Challenge recruited a new business into their downtown community, and wanted to do the same,” said Michael Walker, VDA executive director. “The thing that is different about our initiative is that it is grass-roots, relying on monetary sponsors and in-kind donors to make up the business recruitment package. The Remington Storefront Challenge was done by a private development group – Seawall Development. Essentially, it is the community coming together to help support a new business through their first-second year.”

Downtown Vancouver’s version of the program – named the Downtown Vancouver Launchpad – is a regional competition providing an incentive package worth up to $40,000 for one selected retail business that will open in Vancouver’s downtown in 2020, creating a launchpad for the area’s next creative and entrepreneurial retail idea.

All applications for the program must be received by midnight on Jan. 31, 2020.

According to a news release from the VDA, the competition is open to all legal U.S. residents, 18 years of age and older at the time of entry. The winner must open their business within competition boundaries from the Fifth Street north to Mill Plain, and I-5 west to Kauffman before the end of 2020 to receive the incentive package. Proposed businesses must be for-profit, independent operation or franchised. Any new or existing business idea is eligible, including local businesses that apply as an expansion. Preference will be given to businesses that bring a new element to Vancouver’s downtown.

“We hope that the challenge brings a new element to our downtown community, ideally something that hasn’t been done before,” Walker said. “We hope to recruit a business that is experiential/acts as a community space/acts as a destination. We want people in Vancouver who don’t normally come downtown, to come downtown. Another goal is to market the downtown as a great place to open shop, and to showcase our community coming together in a collective way to improve our downtown.”

So far, Walker said there has been a lot of expressed interest from people working to apply for the competition, and there is still four weeks until the application deadline closes. To date, he said they have received four applications, and he said from their work with David Goldman from Seawall Development, he noted that the majority of their applications for the Remington Storefront Challenge came in during the last week.

After the application deadline on Jan. 31, Walker said semi-finalists will be picked from all qualifying applications by a selection panel of downtown stakeholders. The finalists will then be selected after a review of their submitted business plan. The winner will be chosen based on a final presentation to the selection panel.

The competition winner will be announced as a part of Small Business Week in May 2020.

The $40,000 incentive package that the winner will receive is 50% cash and 50% in-kind services, said Walker. Monetary sponsors include iQ Credit Union, Ginn Development, Harper Houf Peterson Righellis Inc., LSW Architects, Waste Connections, Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle, Source Climbing Gym, Kiggins Theatre and the VDA. Numerous other businesses in the area will provide in-kind services – the list of businesses is not yet complete/finalized.

“In addition, we are working with various downtown property owners to secure a period of free rent to add to the package,” Walker said.

Anyone wishing to apply for the Vancouver Downtown Launchpad competition can download application materials at www.vdausa.org/launchpad.

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Joanna Yorke is the managing editor of the Vancouver Business Journal. She has worked in the journalism field since 2010 after graduating from the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University in Pullman. Yorke worked at The Reflector Newspaper in Battle Ground for six years and then worked at and helped start ClarkCountyToday.com.