BIDDEFORD — The Heart of Biddeford is holding another Main Street Challenge incentive program, designed to help small businesses open downtown.

Three winning businesses will receive $20,000 incentive packages that include free rent and $10,000 forgivable loans. Pitches from businesses are due Oct. 18 and can include ideas for a new business, a new location for a business that’s now in another community, or substantial renovations to a business that’s operating in Biddeford.

Last year’s winning businesses – the Dahlia’s Delights vegetarian restaurant, the Tote Road woodworking business and Elements, a bookstore and cafe – are still operating downtown.

“The first Main Street Challenge drew a lot of attention to Biddeford’s assets and brought three exciting businesses to the downtown. It also inspired more business owners to start up and expand here,” said Delilah Poupore, executive director of Heart of Biddeford, a nonprofit that works to revitalize downtown Biddeford.

The prize package includes free rent for four months; assistance with website creation, sign design, legal services and accounting; and a one-year membership in the Biddeford-Saco Chamber of Commerce with free advertising. Winners also will be eligible to apply for loans with a fixed interest rate and reduced closing costs, and for financial assistance from the Biddeford Saco Area Economic Development Commission.

Each winner also will receive a $10,000 forgivable loan from the city, paid for with funds set aside years ago for small-business loans, said Daniel Stevenson, the city’s economic development director.

Poupore said priority will be given to projects that fill first-floor vacancies, expand the mix of businesses downtown, enhance the business environment for existing businesses, and have the highest potential to draw foot traffic to the area.

A one- to two-page business pitch must be submitted to the Heart of Biddeford by 11:59 p.m. Oct. 18. Applications are available at City Hall and on the Heart of Biddeford website, Winners will be chosen by a panel of judges and announced in January. Winning businesses are required to open by June 20.

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

[email protected]

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