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Business First Grant

Begins 1 week from now

Oct 1 - 31 12:00 AM to 11:59 PM



Dates & Times:



The mission of the Business First Grant (BFG) Program is to benefit OTR by strengthening the local economy, increasing business and employment opportunities, and creating a diverse, healthy, and sustainable business district. 

NOTE: The BFG application period is NOT CURRENTLY OPEN. Please email Amy Yokel if you would like to receive notices for the future grant application periods.

Our Goals:
  • Deepen the success of minority-owned business in OTR.
  • Support business capital improvement in strategic locations that promote walkability and safety by offering valued services to residents and workers.
  • Attract businesses which will inspire originality and pride, hire locally, and invest in the Business First Grant mission.
  • Provide an environment for individuals, entrepreneurs, investors and businesses to thrive.
  • Attract local and regional tourism, while also complementing the local neighborhood and its residents.
  • Provide an experience unique to Over-the-Rhine and create an atmosphere which encourages shopping and supporting local businesses.

The Rewards of BFG

Businesses that are selected through the grant program's competitive process will be awarded a matching grant up to $20,000 for furniture, fixtures and equipment (FFE) and tenant improvements (TI). The funds will be distributed through a reimbursement process through the OTR Chamber.

Additionally, the BFG Program works to create a support network for a new business. Businesses will be provided a liaison for the three year duration of the program. The OTR Chamber's Business Attraction and Retention Review Committee will match the new business owner with a committee member, based on the needs of each individual business. The Review Committee may also refer the new business to local business resources to strengthen areas of the business. A member of the Review Committee will be available to meet with the business owner regularly to address any concerns the business owner may have and assist the business owner in updating their Business Plan.

Grant Requirements

To be eligible for a grant, the incoming business must:
  • Be a minority-owned business*
  • Be new to Over-the-Rhine: Any new businesses and/or previously established businesses in other locations are permitted to apply. It is preferred that already established businesses are currently located outside of the City of Cincinnati boundaries.
  • Sign a minimum three-year lease (or own the building) with the landlord**
    • The tenant and building owner/landlord negotiate the required build out, renovation and preparation required of the building and disclose the cost of build out and the monthly rental amount.
    • The incoming tenant/business will submit a copy of its current business plan to the building owner/landlord before lease negotiations will be completed.
    • Building owners and/or landlords must agree to participate fully in the program and tri-party agreement.
    • Meetings will be held between the applicant, Chamber and Landlord.
  • Agree to be open at least 50 hours per week.
  • Submit a complete application prior to opening your business.
  • OTR Chamber of Commerce Membership: Obtain and maintain an Over-The-Rhine Chamber of Commerce membership and pay any and all applicable dues beginning opening, and for the next three calendar years thereafter.
  • Business First Liaison: Once awarded funds, agree to actively participate with a Business First Liaison, which includes meeting biannually with a liaison to discuss business details, and providing annual financial statements for the period of the lease.
* For purposes of the Business First Grant program, the OTR Chamber of Commerce is using the NATIONAL MINORITY SUPPLIER DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL definition of minority: Minority group members are United States citizens who are Asian, Black, Hispanic and Native American. Ownership by minority individuals means the business is at least 51% owned by such individuals or, in the case of a publicly-owned business, at least 51% of the stock is owned by one or more such individuals i.e. the management and daily operations are controlled by those minority group members. A minority group member is an individual who is a U.S. citizen with at least one quarter of the following:
  • Asian-Indian: A U.S. citizen whose origins are from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
  • Asian-Pacific: A U.S. citizen whose origins are from Japan, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, the Philippines, Thailand, Samoa, Guam, the U.S. Trust Territories of the Pacific or the Northern Marianas.
  • Black: A U.S. citizen who is of African descent.
  • Hispanic: A U.S. citizen of true-born Hispanic heritage, from any of the Spanish-speaking areas of the following regions: Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean Basin only. Brazilians (Afro-Brazilian, indigenous/Indian only) shall be listed under Hispanic designation for review and certification purposes.
  • Native American: A person who is an American Indian, Eskimo, Aleut or Native Hawaiian, and regarded as such by the community of which the person claims to be a part. Native Americans must be documented members of a North American tribe, band or otherwise organized group of native people who are indigenous to the continental United States and proof can be provided through a Native American Blood Degree Certificate (i.e., tribal registry letter, tribal roll register number).
** Ineligible businesses include convenience stores, check-cashing services, temporary labor services, places of worship, home-based businesses, and businesses that are not compatible with adjacent residential uses.

Applicants must submit a completed application to the OTR Chamber prior to opening their doors for business. At the time of application submission, expected project completion date should be within 9 months to a year. 

The submission should include:
  • A professional business plan that clearly articulates the business model, industry analysis, demographics of target population, hours of operation and corresponding staffing schedules, experience of personnel, marketing strategy, and includes detailed cash flow projections,
  • A three-year lease including the landlord's contact information so the OTR Chamber can contact applicant to discuss the terms of the lease. Please note, a signed letter of intent by landlord and applicant can be submitted initially if a signed lease is not in place at the time of submission. Awarding of any grant money would be contingent upon a signed minimum three year lease,
  • A detailed build-out and start-up costs of space clearly defining what will be provided by the landlord and what is the responsibility of the tenant,
  • A detailed budget for Furniture, Fixes & Equipment and
  • A list of sources for all funding.
The applications will be reviewed once-annually in a competitive process by the OTR Chamber's Business Attraction and Retention Review Committee. This program is administered by OTR Chamber of Commerce with the support of a dedicated Review Committee to oversee leases, programs and funding.

The Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce is able to make these grants because of the generosity of our donors. These grants are important to the OTR Chamber and our business district because they help us fulfill our mission of promoting economic vitality and fostering a socially and culturally diverse Over-the-Rhine community. A special thanks to the following organizations for making this grant possible: BB&T, the Hubert Family Foundation, Main Street Ventures, PNC Bank and P&G.





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