Downtown Delaware continues to be very proud to partner with USDA Rural Development, without which many of our services and activities, and the resulting outcomes, are not possible.
Most recently, Downtown Delaware was awarded a two year USDA Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI) grant in the amount of $80,000, matched by Downtown Delaware. The RCDI Program promotes sustainable economic development in rural communities with exceptional needs through provision of training and technical assistance focusing on business development, building rural entrepreneurship, small business innovation, and economic development planning.
Previously, two USDA RCDI grants and a Rural Business Enterprise Grant supported a cadre of programs and services, including development of colorful and contemporary community brands that reflect the unique character of twelve of Delaware's downtown communities, as well as master plans, historic design guidelines manuals, retailer training, eCommerce training and launch of DEDO's popular Project Pop Up, an initiative whereby DEDO provided select Delaware entrepreneurs with an opportunity to be "open for business" in the downtown by offering them downtown commercial space, rent-free for three months from October 1 - December 31.
With the new RCDI grant, we seek to increase its reach and impact by engaging up to ten rural communities as “recipient towns” in Kent and Sussex counties, with emphasis on building economic development opportunity in downtowns in rural Delaware. In this Strategy, we will expand upon revitalization initiatives previously begun in several towns (Bridgeville, Delmar, Georgetown, Harrington, Laurel, Milford, Millsboro, Milton, Seaford) while targeting first-time engagement of one town (Cheswold) for the first time. Technical assistance and training is provided by staff of, or consultants engaged by, the DEDO (the “intermediary”) and will be directed to local “Economic Development (ED) task forces” comprised of municipal leaders; non-profit staff and volunteers; and/or business/property owners, real estate brokers, who will develop and implement revitalization strategies with other stakeholders or “beneficiaries” in their commercial business districts.
While USDA funds are directed toward the above named “recipient towns” the group training services can be accessed by a statewide audience, thus benefitting downtown communities throughout Delaware.
Services provided by our office as a result of the most recent USDA RCDI grant opportunity resulted in an average 12% vacancy reduction, net gain of 124 jobs and 48 new businesses, expansion of five existing buisnesses in six towns. Project Pop Up has secured 18 tenants, three of which have expanded (two even birthing new businesses), and twelve of which remain in their original locations from as early as 2011.
USDA Rural Development achieves its mission by helping rural individuals, communtities, and businesses obtain the financial and technical assistance needed to address their diverse and unique needs. Rural Development works to make sure that rural citizens can participate fully in the global economy. Further information is available at the local USDA Rural Development office located at College Park in Dover, Delaware.