Grants helping to fill Biloxi's vacant commercial properties

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The Biloxi Chamber of Commerce is on a mission to make commercial and retail space hard to find in that city. The chamber is offering an incentive to business owners to set up shop in buildings that have been vacant for some time.

The Biloxi Chamber of Commerce is trying to fill commercial space all over the city of Biloxi from Edgewater Village to the Vieux Marche. Officials said at times it seems the longer a retail space sits empty the harder it is to find tenants. So that's where they hope the re-occupancy grant can help.

Felia Gorges said a grant she received for opening a businesses in a long vacant property helped her buy a nice sign for her gift shop. She's happy Gallimaufry by Grace is giving this historic, old building some new life.

"A new building sometimes is pretty and shiny, but as much as you polish it, you can't give it that history," Gorges said. "I love the characteristics of this building."

The Biloxi Chamber is offering $1,000 to small business owners who locate in empty commercial space with priority going to locations that have been vacant for more than six months.

Director Rachael Seymour said, "We want the city to flourish and we want there not be much existing real estate for people to choose from. Hopefully, the more grants we can give and the more spaces we can fill will increase the economic viability of the city of Biloxi."

Officials said the reoccupancy grant gives business owners more flexibility from others offered by the Biloxi Chamber.

"When you're opening up a business there are all kinds of unexpected expenses that go into it whether it's deposits for utilities or overhead for inventory," Seymour said. "So we wanted to be pretty broad with our grant to where you could apply this grant to any of those expenses. We just want to make those properties more appealing. We feel like maybe there's a reason they've been vacant. If we can make it more appealing to a business owner to put their business in there or if there is some more expense incurred by occupying those spaces then we want to assist with that."

Gorges said the grant does ease the load.

"It just helps give a leg up. When you're moving into a new business the expenses are high," Gorges said. "Of course, until you're up and running and people know that you're here. That just helps the little guy like me be able to make it through that time."

Business owners must be members of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce to apply for this grant. The owner must also have fewer than 25 employees among other requirements.

View a full list of the requirements and a copy of the grant application here:

Copyright 2014 WLOX. All rights reserved.