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Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center proposes program to help grow Mason City small businesses



This news story was published on January 11, 2011.
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At a Council work session Monday night at City Hall, a draft proposal or “greenfield idea” to help grow Mason City small businesses was shown to the City Council and Mayor Eric Bookmeyer by Jamie Zanios of the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (pictured above).|At a Council work session Monday night at City Hall, a draft proposal or “greenfield idea” to help grow Mason City small businesses was shown to the City Council and Mayor Eric Bookmeyer by Jamie Zanios of the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center.

The proposal states “the proposed Mason City Microenterprise Initiative (MCMI) is an opt-in program designed to help retain, grow and develop resident small businesses beginning in July of 2011.” This program would only be available to Mason City businesses, and if it was successful could be offered in other regional cities.

The idea is a “greenfield idea” because it is not being done anywhere else in the United States, according to Zanios.

The program would need about $15,000 of City funds to “to initiate and market the program,” and then a rough figure of $150,000 of City funds to back up the needs of participating businesses. During the meeting, City reserve funds were mentioned as a possible source for these funds. TIF (tax increment financing) was also mentioned as a possible source of funding for the proposal.

According to the proposal, which is still in draft mode pending input from City officials, the City would gain tax dollars on goods and services purchased in Mason City, which would help cover any funds put forth by the City.

Theoretically, a participating business could be reimbursed for goods and services purchased in Mason City. These goods and services could include training, inventory, equipment, expenses related to hiring an employee, rent for commercial property, etc. The business would have to make the investments first, then apply for reimbursement, which the $150,000 in City funds would cover. Zanios mentioned that there could be 25-50 businesses that take advantage of the program over a period of years in Mason City, should the program be implemented.

Other benefits to a small business in the program would include ongoing counseling and technical assistance from the Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center.

Indirect benefits to the community that could result from the program include boosting revenue at other Mason City businesses, more interest in Mason City’s commercial real estate, and positive public relations for the City from an innovative economic development program.

The proposal will likely be discussed Thursday night by the Council in a budget meeting.

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