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Grants would be boost for e-commerce
Fredericksburg EDA considering grant program to foster e-commerce


Date published: 10/4/2011

BY BILL FREEHLING

The Fredericksburg Economic Development Authority is considering a grant program to help small businesses in the city improve their online presence.

A Newport News-based nonprofit called Vectec that helps smaller firms improve their e-commerce business would administer the program. Vectec Executive Director Bill Muir approached the EDA about the idea.

Businesses would apply to the EDA for matching grants up to $2,500 to help with work such as web design, search engine optimization and e-commerce capabilities. Companies owned by women or minorities could get up to $3,500. Vectec would hire companies in the Fredericksburg area to do the actual work.

City economic development staff say they lack the time and expertise to manage the program. Vectec runs similar programs through almost 50 Virginia EDAs, including Stafford County's.

The EDA is considering putting $15,000 into the grant program this fiscal year to be doled out on a first-come, first-served basis. EDA members were supportive of the program at their meeting yesterday, but they held off giving final approval so all the details can be worked out.

In other business yesterday the EDA:

Signed off on the University of Mary Washington Foundation's plans to refinance its tax-exempt debt at the Eagle Village mixed-use development across U.S. 1 from UMW's Fredericksburg campus to lock in at today's low interest rates.

Discussed the Virginia Main Street Program. EDA Chairman Joe Wilson wanted to make clear that the program, which Fredericksburg is considering joining, is not yet a done deal. A Nov. 4 work session is scheduled between the EDA and Fredericksburg City Council to discuss the program.

Allocated $4,000 toward a program tentatively being called "Window Wonderland" that would encourage downtown merchants to decorate their windows for the holiday season. Riddles would be placed in the window displays for the public to answer, and there would be prizes for people who participate. The promotion is scheduled to begin in mid-November.

Bill Freehling: 540/374-5405
Email: bfreehling@freelancestar.com