Updated: Feb 7, 2022
2018 Best Economic Development Incentive
Seeking to reverse the decline in local entrepreneurs and new small business start-ups, the Marion Business Association, the City of Marion, the McDowell Chamber of Commerce, and the McDowell Technical Community College Small Business Center initially partnered in 2016 to create the Growing Entrepreneurs Marion, or GEM program.
Using the REAL Entrepreneurship curriculum, GEM offers an eight-class training program to teach basic entrepreneur skills, community demographics, small business impact on the community, networking skills, proper legal structure, and how to navigate the local building codes and inspections. Upon completion of the program, participants will have developed a detailed business plan and, if funding is available, may apply for a $5,000 grant for rental and utility assistance if they open retail, food or beverage, or entertainment businesses in downtown, and commit to fully participating in downtown events, being open a minimum number of hours, and creating jobs.
Organizers have noticed a comradery among GEM businesses. They are more likely to work together for promotions, network together, and support each other’s businesses. Since its inception, the $64,000 program has leveraged a total GEM investment of $2 million for five building acquisitions, eleven business start-ups, and eight building renovations for GEM businesses.
The program has leveraged an additional $2.4 million in additional investment, the creation of forty-six full-time and part-time jobs, and an increase in retail sales activity of 18%.