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How Gov. Youngkin hopes thousands in grant dollars will help Petersburg businesses: 'We're in dire straits'

Posted at 5:46 PM, Jan 24, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-24 17:46:01-05

PETERSBURG, Va. -- $500,000 will be coming to Petersburg's business community as part of Governor Glenn Youngkin's Partnership for Petersburg campaign. The plan, announced last August, aims at improving education, public safety, health and transportation issues.

The money, titled the Petersburg Founders Fund, would give up to $25,000 in grants to roughly 20 different startups and small businesses in the city.

The qualifications require business owners and entrepreneurs to live in Petersburg or hold a business license for their primary business in the city. The funding can support activities like promoting employees, conducting market research, business development and renovations, and securing business investments or loans.

Kimberly Calos, the owner of the Bougie Goat Boutique, said she continues to face challenges with hiring and retaining staff after opening her Petersburg location in 2020.

"It's been a challenge," Calos said. "Just employees are a challenge."

On Tuesday, the Metropolitan Business League hosted a roundtable discussion to share details about the Founders Fund and hear questions and concerns about the current business climate in Petersburg.

Pamela Nettles, who recently started 3 Sistahs and a Broom, a cleaning service hoping to hire victims of domestic violence, came to the roundtable to get more information about additional funding.

Nettles said she hopes to eventually open a space in Petersburg but for now, is operating the business out of her home in Hopewell.

"When I go to try to do grants, it's like, 'Well, what grants do I use?' It's so many," Nettles said. "You get into that place where you don't know where to go or who to contact or where you can go because your credit score is either too low, you don't have enough revenue in your business account, it's just a certain limit you have to be at and some of us can't get there."

Others at the roundtable discussion said they are worried that crime will deter shoppers from visiting Petersburg businesses.

"I had bodies down on the ground painting and cleaning the blood off the stoop after things had taken place, but do people come back down here and say, 'Hey, it's cool to shop here.' No dude," said Tamara Tazewell, owner of Essential Market. "We've had to wait it out for months, and now we're on the brink of closing doors, eviction, everything. It's good that the cavalry is here now, but we're in dire straits. What if we say it's a little too late? How can you save us?"

Those with the Metropolitan Business League said helping local businesses thrive by providing funding and resources could possibly prevent crime.

"It's the economic plight that is the catalyst for crime, so we tackle that, and then of course you have mental health and other things," said Hal Miles, the Small Business Coordinator with the league.

"You take that area first and then you'll realize people are committing crime out of necessity, honestly," Miles said.

Calos said she'd like to see law enforcement stay active around busy shopping areas as well as other changes in the city.

"We could do a lot better as far as grant money, for facades and more rules and regulations to just bring the community into a walkability status, and we're not there yet," Calos said.

Calos said despite the business struggles, she's not planning on moving any time soon.

"I've invested here and I'm going to stay here. Because people here, here and afar, have invested in me," she said.

The deadline to apply for the Petersburg Founders Fund is January 31. The MBL said so far, at least 160 business owners have applied for grant money.

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