Governor Announces Economic Initiative During Berlin Stop

Governor Announces Economic Initiative During Berlin Stop
Gov. Larry Hogan speaks at the Calvin B. Taylor House Museum Monday. Photo by Charlene Sharpe

BERLIN – Gov. Larry Hogan announced plans for a new economic recovery initiative meant to help revitalize vacant commercial space during a visit to Berlin Monday.

Hogan announced the launch of Project Restore, a $25 million economic recovery initiative that will provide incentives for small businesses and commercial developers to revitalize vacant commercial space, in Berlin Monday morning.

“Project Restore will help put more ‘open for business’ signs in storefront windows, create thousands of jobs, and transform neighborhoods and communities,” Hogan said. “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.”

Hogan, joined by municipal officials as well as Sen. Mary Beth Carozza and Del. Wayne Hartman, visited several downtown Berlin shops before announcing the creation of the program on the lawn of the Calvin B. Taylor House Museum.

“We just talked to some of the small business owners down the street who were talking about how they were able to innovate and pivot during this really difficult time and utilize some of the funding and the grants and the loans to not only survive the pandemic but to make improvements,” Hogan said. “Hopefully they’re going to be doing even more business now that we’ve got things back on track.”

Through Project Restore, which will be administered by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), rental grants and sales tax relief rebates will be offered to help offset startup costs and encourage investment in vacant spaces. Businesses that start new or expanded operations in spaces that have not been generating sales tax receipts for six months or more will be eligible for the program. Small businesses of 50 or fewer employees will be eligible for additional benefits.

DSC_0274-150x150.jpg“Our department has been proud to support the economic recovery of Maryland with over $1.78 billion of pandemic related funding allocated to help businesses, nonprofits, entertainment and tourist venues, renters, homeowners, and other Marylanders in need,” said DHCD Secretary Kenneth C. Holt. “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.”

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. Eligibility will be based on the same tiering criteria as the More Jobs for Marylanders program. Businesses in Tier 1 counties—which includes Baltimore City and any Opportunity Zone in Maryland—will be eligible to receive the rebate for two years of operation. Businesses in Tier 2 counties will be eligible to receive the rebate for the first full year of operation.  In addition, small business applicants will be eligible for rental subsidies of $2,500 per month for 12 months—up to $30,000—to help offset start-up costs during the first year.

Hogan acknowledged his administration’s efforts to keep Maryland open for business despite the pandemic and said Project Restore was an opportunity to continue to spur business growth and create more jobs.

“Berlin is doing a lot better than some of our other smaller towns but one or two empty storefronts in a small community can affect an entire town,” he said. “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. As you probably know by now, I’ve never been a fan of status quo especially when it comes to Maryland’s economy.”

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.