BERLIN — Gov. Larry Hogan, while at the Calvin B. Taylor Museum here on the third day of his five-day Eastern Shore tour, announced the launch of Project Restore, a $25 million economic recovery initiative to benefit small businesses and help fill vacant retail commercial space.
“Project Restore will help put more ‘open for business’ signs in storefront windows, create thousands of jobs, and transform neighborhoods and communities,” said Gov. Hogan. “This initiative is just one more shining example of how we aren’t just committed to fully recovering from this pandemic, we are committed to coming back stronger and better than ever before.”
The program taps some of the $1.78 billion in pandemic related relief funding allocated to the state. It offers two key incentives with eligibility based on the same tiering criteria as the More Jobs for Marylanders program.
It gives special benefits to Tier 1 counties like Somerset and for locations inside Opportunity Zones, which Somerset has two including the Crisfield and Marion area as well as Princess Anne. Opportunity zones “will be eligible for an additional year of financial incentives,” the governor said.
Businesses will be eligible for sales tax relief rebates equal to the business’ sales tax receipts for the 12 month period, with a maximum of $250,000 per year, and small business applicants will be eligible for rental subsidies of up to $2,500 per month for 12 months — up to $30,000 — to help offset start-up costs during the first year.
To qualify for Project Restore, eligible entities must begin new or expanded operations in space that has not been generating sales tax receipts for the past six months or more. All applicants commit to occupying the space for a minimum of 12 months following receipt of the grant.
Small businesses of 50 or fewer employees will be eligible for additional benefits.
The Department of Housing and Community Development will oversee the program, and Secretary Kenneth C. Holt said, “Project Restore will be another step to revitalizing and bringing life back to the commercial corridors and Main Streets that are the lifeblood of Maryland’s economy."
“More of our downtown Main Street retail and commercial space across the state is vacant,” Gov. Hogan said during his announcement on June 28. “One or two empty storefronts in a small community can affect an entire town, so we have a choice, we can either accept empty storefronts as the new status quo, or we can see it as an opportunity for growth and renewal.”
“It’s also a smart and innovative way to use federal relief funds to revitalize our town and support jobs, and economic recovery,” the governor said.
Gov. Hogan was in Princess Anne on June 26 and after touring a block of downtown teased reporters that a major announcement was coming this week. For more information on Project Restore, visit dhcd.maryland.gov/ProjectRestore.