Downtown Strong Grant Update: Neighborhood Innovation Center (NICSTL) - A Win-Win

July 25, 2022 | MO Main Street

The Downtown Strong: Building Resilient Economies program is provided through a grant by the U.S. Economic Development Administration to Missouri Main Street Connection (MMSC) that continues to impact 20 Missouri communities. In these 20 communities, there are 62 businesses and 16 organizations that have been and will be impacted as this grant continues to work with awardees. The Dutchtown neighborhood of St. Louis is home to the Neighborhood Innovation Center (NICstl) who applied and was endorsed by Downtown Dutchtown, a St, Louis Main Streets program.

NICstl is a startup 501c(3) nonprofit that was created in 2019. Formed from the founders’ desire to put a vacant bank building to productive use, it provides a place-based innovation community in Downtown Dutchtown. Innovation communities are places where groups of entrepreneurial minded people can come together and share their thoughts, ideas, struggles, and resources in the pursuit of their goals of innovation.

The Dutchtown neighborhood is a small neighborhood commercial district on the south side of St. Louis. It is surrounded by residential and a growing base of local businesses. The commercial district is part of Missouri Main Street Connection’s St. Louis Main Streets program. Unlike other areas of the St. Louis Metropolitan area, the area has no business incubator, maker space, workforce training center, or other entities that offer similar services to the NICstl. Thus, the NICstl provides this resource desert with an oasis for the residents and businesses in the area.

NICstl requested assistance in updating their business plan to achieve the three pillars of innovation, excellence, and ownership of their building through identifying suitable financing options. The three pillars would allow NICstl to:

  1. Become a center of digital training & cloud certifications for residents while preparing them for quality jobs and supporting local businesses.

  2. Become an incubator for small/micro/nano/solo enterprises and an accelerator for existing small business or nonprofits in digital transformation.

  3. Provide direct business support programs – matching local talents and global network of professional volunteers to Downtown Dutchtown businesses (Neighborhood Talent Pool and Small Business Help Desk).

Jon Stover & Associates, LLC worked to address the pillars and help NICstl define and articulate their mission, update their business plan, and evaluate funding options.

The funding was a critical piece for NICstl.  In October 2019, they entered into a 3-year lease agreement with an option to buy their building at the end of the lease. But, just six months later the pandemic changed everything and the operation of NICstl became even more critical to the neighborhood. During the beginning of the pandemic and still today they act as the center of collaboration among all main community eco-system partners. They needed to purchase the building by the end of their lease, or they could lose the building and their ability to provide these services.

Together, Jon Stover & Associates, LLC and NICstl narrowed their funding options and prepared NICstl to apply for the Neighborhood Assistance Tax Credit Program through the Missouri Department of Economic Development. Through donations for tax credits, the program would allow NICstl to raise funds for the purchase and renovation of the building. The application was submitted by NICstl and successfully awarded in July of 2022, in time to complete the sale by the deadline. There is still a lot of work to do, but not only is this a success for NICstl, it is a true success for the Dutchtown neighborhood. A win-win!

The services included in this article were prepared by Missouri Main Street Connection, Inc. using Federal funds under award 05-79-06056 from Economic Development Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce. The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Development Administration or the U.S. Department of Commerce.

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