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March 3, 2023

Saco establishes grant programs for small businesses and downtown facade improvements

Blue Elephant Catering partners at their place of b business File Photo / Tim Greenway Fausto Pifferrer, left, and Reuben Bell, who own Blue Elephant Events & Catering in Pepperell Square in downtown Saco. The city opened applications for new grants to benefit small local businesses.

The Saco Economic Development Department has established two grant programs to support small local businesses and help revitalize the city. 

The Small Business Grant Program offers matching funds for non-operational expenses for commercial businesses with 50 or fewer employees within Saco city limits. The Downtown Façade Grant Program matches funds for painting, window or door repairs or replacements, signage, awnings, and storefront restorations. 

Grants are available for a maximum of $15,000 for each program and require a match. The applicant will be reimbursed for the amount of the grant award, or 25% of the total project cost, whichever is less, upon completion of the project. All projects must be completed within one year of grant approval.

The amount awarded is based on the availability of funds, the number of qualified applicants, and other criteria. The grant will be offered on an ongoing basis as funding permits. 

Property owners and tenants are welcome to apply, but tenants must have the owner’s signed approval of the proposed building improvement.

Qualifying projects

  • Physical improvements and renovations to the interior and/or exterior, including business signage, awnings, etc.
  • Fixtures, furniture, and equipment related to the business.
  • Working capital including relocation expenses.
  • Machinery and equipment.
  • Professional services including architectural, engineering, marketing, impact and permitting fees

Non-qualifying projects include real estate acquisitions, refinancing existing debt and sweat equity.

Applications will be evaluated on the overall impact of the project on the city (50%) and if the project will contribute to the retention, expansion, or addition of a business. Sustainability/permanence will count 25%, evaluating if there is a maintenance plan and if the project will have long-term benefits. Community contribution (25%) — does the business participate in local activities and promotions and does the applicant promote Saco and their own business. 

To apply for a small business grant, email an application (available here) to Jessa Berna, economic development specialist, at email

For more details about the facade grant for storefront improvements, click here

The new programs are being offered in addition to small business loans of up to $10,000 administered by the economic development department. For more, click here.


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