Duluth Retail Contest Offers Free Rent to 2 Cos.

A new effort to attract businesses to downtown Duluth will award two businesses with free rent for a year, an advertising package, a loan, start-up business consulting, and more.

The Greater Downtown Council of Duluth has launched a contest aimed at attracting retailers to its downtown area.

The contest-dubbed “Go Downtown, Grow Downtown”-will award two entrepreneurs with free rent for a year, along with a long list of other perks.

“Our hope is that this will raise awareness about opportunities in downtown Duluth and lure additional businesses,” Kristi Stokes, president of the Greater Downtown Council of Duluth, said in a Monday phone interview. The initiative is aimed at “strengthening and complementing the city's existing mix of retailers,” she added.

The council is accepting two-page business concepts from applicants through February 28. The concept must outline the products offered by the applicant, its projected market, a business plan, and a description of how the business would enhance downtown Duluth.

Finalists, which will be announced on March 3, will be required to submit a more detailed business plan. Two winners will be unveiled on June 15.

One of the prize packages will be awarded to a new business, and the other will go to the expansion of an existing business-which must be new to downtown Duluth and is opening only the second or third store in its portfolio.

The winners will receive free rent for the first 12 months of a three_year lease agreement in downtown Duluth on Superior Street. The selected businesses will also get start-up business consulting and a $5,000 loan from the Northeast Entrepreneur Fund, a one-year advertising package from the Duluth News Tribune, free marketing services from Duluth-based Out There Advertising, retail mentoring services from clothing retailer Maurices, and a one-year membership with the downtown council.

The council estimates that the overall prize package is valued at more than $55,000.

Stokes said that her organization has received phone calls daily inquiring about the contest since it was unveiled earlier this month, and the council is also targeting companies from the Twin Cities that are considering expanding and opening a new location in Duluth.

Entrepreneurs interested in entering the competition can learn more here.