SALISBURY, Md. — Downtown Salisbury small businesses got a post-pandemic checkup from Gov. Larry Hogan, who said he wanted to discuss any issues and find out where help is needed.
“It’s been a very difficult time during COVID for a lot of our small businesses, but the economy’s coming back and booming in a big way,” the governor said during his Wednesday tour with city officials.
Gov. Hogan, who was attending last week’s Maryland Municipal League conference in Ocean City, spent much of the week touring Eastern Shore towns. Salisbury was the fourth extensive visit on his list.
Earlier in the day, Gov. Hogan had breakfast with Mayor Jake Day, who is the new MML president. Mayor Day was unable to leave the conference for the governor’s visit, so Amanda Pollack, director of infrastructure and development, and Laura Soper, director of business development, led the tour that also included stops at several businesses, the new lynching memorial and the city’s edible garden.
At Mogan’s Oyster House, owner Brad Mogan told Gov. Hogan the restaurant struggled through COVID-19 but is starting to return to normal. Customers are feeling more confident now that a significant portion of the state’s population has been vaccinated under Gov. Hogan’s leadership.
“Maryland’s handled this very, very well,” Mr. Mogan told the governor.
During his five-day Eastern Shore tour, Gov. Hogan also announced a new program, Project Restore, which is a $25 million economic recovery initiative that will provide financial incentives for small businesses and commercial developers to revitalize vacant retail and 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.”
This new program will be administered by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development. Through Project Restore, the department will offer rental grants and sales tax-relief rebates to help offset startup costs and incentivize commercial investment in vacant spaces.
Businesses that begin new or expanded operations in spaces that have not been generating sales tax receipts for the past six months or more will be eligible for the program. Small businesses of 50 or fewer employees will be eligible for additional benefits.
Businesses will be eligible for sales tax-relief rebates equal to the business’s sales tax receipts for the 12-month period, with a maximum of $250,000 per year. Eligibility will be based on the same tiering criteria as the More Jobs for Marylanders program:
Additionally, small-business applicants will be eligible for rental subsidies of $2,500 per month for 12 months — up to $30,000 — to help offset startup costs during the first year.
All applicants commit to occupying the space for a minimum of 12 months following receipt of the grant. For more information on Project Restore, visit the DHCD website.