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The District closes minority-owned business grant application after influx of applicants

The Downtown Community Improvement District is closing the application for its Minority Owned Business Grant.

The CID first voted to create the grant in October 2021. Nickie Davis, executive director of The District, said the pilot program is more popular than the board anticipated.

“We have more applicants than we will be able to fund at this point,” Davis said. “We don’t want to give anyone false hope.”

The pilot program will give $5,000 to minority-owned businesses that are looking to move into The District or have been a part of The District for less than six months as of October 2021.

“Ideally, this money will be used for marketing,” Davis said.

More than 30 businesses applied for the grant. However, the CID only has $20,000 set aside for the program at this time. Though the board is closing the application, Davis said she hopes to expand the program in the future.

“I think the entire board agrees that it’s a great program,” Davis said. “We want our businesses downtown to reflect the community that we have in Columbia and that we want to see in Columbia.”

The grant was created after the CID changed leadership. Davis said the current board is hoping this grant will make up for past problems in downtown Columbia.

“We have the Sharp End district in our downtown,” Davis said. “That is the historic Black-owned district that got gentrified in the ’60s.”

She said the gentrification is a “glaring issue” for downtown Columbia and the CID.

“We didn’t exist back then when it happened, but it’s something we can take a small step toward correcting,” Davis said.

As of Saturday, there are only about a dozen minority-owned businesses in downtown Columbia. Davis said that is less than 10% of The District.