Assistance for Businesses
Somerville’s many businesses--from small retailers to experimental restaurants to innovative technology companies--play a big role in making our city a great place to live, work, play, and raise a family. The Economic Development Department works with businesses of all sizes and types to support their growth and success in Somerville.
Small Business Support
Construction Mitigation for Businesses
Small Business Support
The City's Small Business Support program provides business owners with coaching and reimbursement grants to help strengthen their businesses. The program takes place in two phases.
Phase I: Business Coaching
Meet with City staff to discuss your business and what kind of coaching could help sustain or grow your company. Coaches with the following expertise will be available:
- Financial planning
- Restaurant operations
- Business plan writing
- Human resources
- Architecture / Interior or storefront design
- Worker-owned cooperative management or transition
Coaches will spend at least four hours with participating businesses and provide owners a written list of several recommendations. Additional coaching may be available subject to City approval.
Phase II: Grants for Implementation
Businesses can also opt to participate in Phase II, where they select an initiative to implement from the list of the coach’s recommendations. Participants apply to receive a matching reimbursement grant from the City, which covers 70% of the implementation. The maximum award for Phase II is $7,000. Eligible projects include:
- Storefront improvements (windows, finishes, signage, entrance renovations)
- Marketing (menus, website, rebranding, etc.)
- Interior improvements (lighting, display, plumbing, electrical, gas, HVAC)
- Point of sale or inventory management systems
- Equipment (kitchen, salon, etc.)
Applications Accepted: October through January
Phase I - Business Coaching: October through February
Phase II - Grants for Implementation: Executed contract due June 1. All paperwork should be submitted by May 15.
Deadline for Phase II Work: All work must be completed and paid for by the participating business by September 30 to ensure reimbursement from the City.
Businesses who have participated in other City technical assistance programs in the last 12 months are ineligible. Other eligibility requirements apply. These may include whether your business has five or fewer full-time employees, and whether business owners meet certain household income restrictions. Some funding is available for businesses who do not meet these restrictions but are significantly affected by construction.
To schedule a staff consultation and discuss eligibility, please contact: Nick Schonberger at [email protected] or 617-625-6600 ext. 2537
Networking and Advocacy
- East Somerville Main Streets: Organizes events, connects member businesses to resources, and helps members stay up-to-date on news that affects the East Somerville neighborhood.
- Somerville Local First: Supports locally owned and independent businesses in the City by managing marketing campaigns to support local businesses, providing technical assistance to entrepreneurs, and connecting business owners to each other.
- Somerville Chamber of Commerce: Networking and advocacy for Somerville businesses.
- Union Square Main Streets: Organizes events, connects member businesses to resources, and helps members stay up-to-date on news that affects the Union Square neighborhood.
- Somerville Entrepreneur Network: The City of Somerville Economic Development team and the Somerville Public Library host monthly meetups for aspiring and current entrepreneurs. To receive updates about future events, sign up for our email list.
Business Development & Support
- Nibble Entrepreneurship Program (Somerville Arts Council): These culinary training programs work directly with immigrants to assist them in exploring a culinary career and testing a food business idea. For more information, contact Rachel Strutt at [email protected] or 617.625.6600, x 2985.
- Boston SCORE: Offers free counseling and mentoring to those looking to start or grow a business and free and low-cost workshops on a variety of topics.
- Center for Women in Enterprise: Provides education and technical support for female business owners.
- Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice: Provides legal support and free events for small businesses.
- Massachusetts Small Business Development Center: Provides free, one-to-one business assistance and free or low-cost training programs to prospective and existing small businesses.
- U.S. Small Business Administration: The SBA provides regular trainings, workshops, and other resources to small businesses throughout the nation. There is a regional office and a Boston district office for even more targeted support.
- Direct Install for Small Business (Mass Save): Eversource provides eligible business customers a free energy audit of their facility by Mass Save. The audit will identify energy saving opportunities, and potentially pay for up to 70% of the total cost for retrofitting qualified lighting and mechanical systems. Gas measures will also be addressed. For further information and other small business incentives, please visit Mass Save's website for businesses.
- Disabled Access Credit (U.S. Government): The Disabled Access Credit provides a non-refundable credit for small businesses that incur expenditures for the purpose of providing access to persons with disabilities. An eligible small business is one that that earned $1 million or less or had no more than 30 full time employees in the previous year; they may take the credit each and every year they incur access expenditures. Refer to Form 8826, Disabled Access Credit (PDF), for information about eligible expenditures. Additional information can be found by visiting the American with Disabilities Act website or calling the ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 or TTY 800-514-0383..
- Barrier Removal Tax Deduction (U.S. Government): The Architectural Barrier Removal Tax Deduction encourages businesses of any size to remove architectural and transportation barriers to the mobility of persons with disabilities and the elderly. Businesses may claim a deduction of up to $15,000 a year for qualified expenses for items that normally must be capitalized. Businesses may use the Disabled Tax Credit and the architectural/transportation tax deduction together in the same tax year, if the expenses meet the requirements of both sections. For further information, contact the Internal Revenue Service. Additional information can be found by visiting the American with Disabilities Act website or calling the ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 or TTY 800-514-0383.
- Federal Tax Incentives for Preserving Historic Properties (U.S. Government): Federal historic preservation tax incentives are available for any qualified project that the Secretary of the Interior designates as a certified rehabilitation of a certified historic structure. For more information, please visit the National Park Service’s website.
- Massachusetts Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit (Commonwealth of Massachusetts): The Massachusetts Historic Rehabilitation Tax allows the certified rehabilitation of an income-producing property to receive up to 20% of the cost of certified rehabilitation expenditures in state tax credit. For more information, please visit the Massachusetts Historical Commission’s website.
- U.S. Small Business Administration (U.S. Government): The SBA offers many loan programs; the 7a loans and the CDC/504 loans have been useful to a number of business in Somerville. If you are looking to purchase a building or fixed equipment for your business, these loans can provide SBA-guaranteed loans that will drastically reduce the financing costs.
The City of Somerville's Economic Development Office, in partnership with Good Egg Marketing, a Boston-based marketing firm, is pleased to offer the Economic Gardening business assistance program. The Economic Gardening program will target Stage II Somerville businesses looking to grow. A Stage II business is one with between 10 and 100 full-time employees and over $1 million in annual revenue.
This technical assistance will include a marketing audit; strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis; a marketing plan, and further business plan analysis and recommendations if needed.
The program will take place in two phases over the course of 2018. In Phase I, three to five businesses will be selected to undergo a needs assessment and receive recommendations. One to three businesses will then continue on to Phase II and receive continued coaching and implementation on previous recommendations for the remainder of the year. Please contact Nick Schonberger at [email protected] or (617) 625-6600 x2527 for more information.
Construction Mitigation for Businesses
Construction will help Somerville create and maintain the infrastructure it needs to function and even bring the Green Line Extension into the city. These much-needed benefits don’t make it any easier for businesses to cope with the disruption that construction projects inevitably bring. Our team is dedicated to making the best of construction for our businesses.
Communicate the information our businesses need to know to plan around disruption.
Economic Development has worked with other departments to ensure that new hires in Communications and Engineering are available to proactively provide information to businesses about construction, detours, and service disruptions. These hires also help answer questions and solve problems—like trying to schedule service disruptions during the least convenient times for as many businesses as possible.
The team also maintains a construction mailing list specifically for businesses about the resources and information available to them. This is in addition to the City’s robust construction newsletter, which describes construction progress in detail on a regular basis.
Our team has also been out in the streets block walking and tabling at events on a regular basis, so most of the businesses affected by construction have met an Economic Development team member in person.
Strengthen businesses so they are well-positioned to come out of construction ready to thrive.
Technical assistance events focusing on topics like Planning for Disruption featuring lawyers, financial planners, and legal experts or Marketing for Disruption featuring marketing experts have helped business owners better plan for construction and benefit from the lessons experts have learned working with other businesses who have dealt with construction.
The Economic Development team’s new Small Business Support program was designed so that it could provide one-on-one expert coaching to businesses that are suffering from construction as well. This will enable businesses to have access to the financial planning, business planning, marketing, and human resource expertise they need to plan for growth and sustainability.
Attract customers to our districts regardless of construction.
Placemaking events like the Ball for Squares, hosted in conjunction with the Ball Square Business Association and Somerville Local First, are a great opportunity to bring new customers to the commercial districts who need additional foot traffic. In Union Square, Union Square Main Streets has, with the help of City funding, provided events, technical assistance, and support for businesses.
The City has also been working on the #loyal2local campaign to encourage residents to not only shop local but also to shop at construction-affected businesses specifically. In addition to social media, this campaign will involve traditional print media, banners and other marketing materials in the square, and ads. Check out @SomervilleBusinesses on Instagram to follow along, and post your own photos to promote the effort.