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Business First Grant (BFG) Now accepting applications for Fall 2017!

Business Recruitment Initiative for Over-the-Rhine

The mission of the Business First Grant Program (BFG) is to benefit OTR by strengthening the local economy, increasing business and employment opportunities, and creating a diverse, healthy, and sustainable business district.

Our Goals: 
  • Promote business and building diversity in OTR.
  • Support business capital improvement within vacant areas of OTR.
  • Attract businesses which will inspire originality and pride, hire locally, and invest in the Business First Grant mission
  • Provide an environment for individuals, entrepreneurs, investors and businesses to thrive.
  • Attract local and regional tourism, while also complementing the local neighborhood and its residents.      
  • Provide an experience unique to Over-the-Rhine, and creating an atmosphere which encourages shopping and supporting local businesses. 

All applications must be submitted by Monday, November 20th. 

Download the current application here.*

*Once downloaded as a PDF, click on "Tools", and open "Fill & Sign" under the Forms and Signatures category.

Business First Grant Workshop will be on Tuesday, October 3rd! We highly encourage all applicants to attend. Please RSVP to by September 29th.  More information on the workshop here

To be eligible for a grant, the incoming business must: 

Be new to Over-the-Rhine. Any new businesses and/or previously established businesses in other locations are permitted to apply. It is preferred that already established businesses are currently located outside of the City of Cincinnati boundaries.

Fall within at least one of the following focus areas*:
  • Neighborhood services*: We are specifically looking for businesses who are key in providing neighborhood services and products needed by those who live and work in the OTR community. *Bars and restaurants are excluded from this category.
  • Filling the gap of an under-utilized area, or filling in gap or connecting an area* less utilized. *OTRCC recognizes these areas to include but not limited to: Main Street, North of Liberty and connector streets.
  • A women or minority-owned business owner
  • A graduate of an local business incubator
  • All local incubators within the Greater Cincinnati area will be applicable. CLICK HERE for a list of local incubator programs.
*For each focus area that applies, the applicant must complete the corresponding section of the application for it to be considered a valid submission.
Sign a minimum three-year lease (or own the building) with the landlord* * The tenant and building owner/landlord negotiate the required build out, renovation and preparation required of the building and disclose the cost of build out and the monthly rental amount.
* The incoming tenant/business will submit a copy of its current business plan to the building owner/landlord before lease negotiations will be completed.       
* Building owners and/or landlords must agree to participate fully in the program and tri-party meetings will be held between the applicant, Chamber and Landlord.

Hours: Agree to be open at least 50 hours per week.

Submit a complete application prior to opening your business. 

OTR Chamber of Commerce Membership: Obtain and maintain an Over-The-Rhine Chamber of Commerce membership and pay any and all applicable dues beginning opening, and for the next three calendar years thereafter.

Business First Liaison: Once awarded funds, agree to actively participate with a Business First Liaison, which includes meeting biannually with a liaison to discuss business details, and providing annual financial statements for the period of the lease.

*Ineligible businesses include convenience stores, check-cashing services, temporary labor services, places of worship, home-based businesses, and businesses that are not compatible with adjacent residential uses


The Rewards of BFG

Businesses that are selected through the Business First Grant Program’s competitive process will be awarded a matching grant up to $30,000 for furniture, fixtures and equipment (FFE) and tenant improvements (TI). The funds will be distributed through a reimbursement process through the OTR Chamber.

Additionally, the BFG Program works to create a support network for a new business. Businesses will be provided a liaison for the three year duration of the program. The Review Committee will match the new business owner with a committee member, based on the needs of each individual business. The Review Committee may also refer the new business to local business resources to strengthen areas of the business.  A member of the Review Committee will be available to meet with the business owner regularly to address any concerns the business owner may have and assist the business owner in updating their Business Plan.


How to Apply

Download an application and submit the completed application to the OTR Chamber of Commerce via mail (1805 Elm St. 3rd Floor, 45202) or email: Applications must include one complete hard copy, and an entire application as an electronic file. Please read this entire page carefully, and be certain to complete the entire application. Feel free to contact the OTR Chamber with questions at (513) 241-2690.

The Application Process

Applicants must submit a completed application to the OTR Chamber prior to opening their doors for business. At the time of application submission, expected project completion date should be within 9 months to a year. The Application form can be downloaded at the bottom of this page. The submission should include a:

Professional Business Plan that clearly articulates the business model, industry analysis, demographics of target population, hours of operation and corresponding staffing schedules, experience of personnel, marketing strategy, and includes detailed cash flow projections. (CLICK HERE for link to U.S. Small Business Administration on tips to “Build your Business Plan”.
Three Year Lease including the landlord’s contact information so the OTR Chamber can contact applicant to discuss the terms of the lease. Please note, a signed letter of intent by landlord and applicant can be submitted initially if a signed lease is not in place at the time of submission. Awarding of any grant money would be contingent upon a signed minimum three year lease.
Detailed Build-Out Costs of space clearly defining what will be provided by the landlord and what is the responsibility of the tenant.
Detailed budget for Furniture, Fixes & Equipment.
List of sources for all funding.

The applications will be reviewed once-annually in a competitive process by the Business Attraction and Retention Review Committee. This program is administered by OTR Chamber of Commerce with the support of a dedicated Review Committee to oversee leases, programs and funding.

The Business First Grant program is made possible by the following corporate and foundation partners: BB&T, Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce, PNC Bank, and P&G.

Download the Business First Grant Program Application