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Grant program helps revitalize Wilkes-Barre businesses

WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — A grant program for businesses in the city of Wilkes-Barre helps revitalize the area after the pandemic.

The Spark Grant Program powered through the City of Wilkes-Barre and the greater Wyoming Valley Chamber of Commerce is working to help businesses grow and in turn, help the city thrive.

Like many areas, Downtown Wilkes-Barre was hit heavily by the pandemic.

“Our foot traffic has dramatically decreased during that time. Especially for an area that is bookended by two very prominent universities and colleges,” Shanie Mohamed, director of economic development for the Greater Wyoming Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Now, the Spark Grant Program is working to bring more businesses to the area.

The chamber’s Chief Financial Officer Matthew Bickert says the grant covers a wide range of businesses.

“It’s a grant for new or relocating businesses to Wilkes-Barre City,” said Bickert.

It’s powered by the City of Wilkes-Barre and the Greater Wyoming Valley Chamber of Commerce.

The mayor’s office tells 28/22 News there are currently fifty-three businesses part of the program.“Through the spark program, if a new business comes into the city of Wilkes-Barre. They may qualify for us to pay the first year rent for them up to $10,000 and parking,” said Wilkes-Barre Mayor George Brown.

The funding for the grant comes from the American Rescue Act’s coronavirus state and local fiscal recovery funds.

The grant helps fill storefronts and is also unique because it provides an educational component to recipients to help expand their businesses even further.

“We have an incredible partner in the Wilkes University small business development center that we are able to pair each of these entrepreneurs with consultants to talk about their business plans to talk about their financial projections so that they have the options of you know understanding all of the facets of what entrepreneurship is,” said Mohamed explained.

The program was established in 2021 and has already seen a lot of success from its recipients.

“Our businesses that have benefitted from the grant so far, we’ve seen a lot of progress from,” Mohamed continued.

The grant will be open until the end of 2024.

Those businesses interested in applying for the grant can find more information online.