Destination Medical Center EDA completes distribution of $3M in state grants to help downtown businesses

Assistance to help grow local businesses range from less that $10,000 to more than $200,000.

Popus Gourmet Popcorn
Gilbert Jordan IV tries out some popcorn samples at Popus Gourmet Popcorn on Monday, Nov. 14, 2022, in downtown Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin file photo

ROCHESTER — An economic revitalization grant helped D’Angelo Tines grow his business less than a year after opening its downtown doors.

“Something like this is moving our business and pushing it forward and allowing us to grow further than we would have by now,” the owner of Popus Gourmet Popcorn told members of the state’s Destination Medical Center Corp. board on Thursday.

Tines received $25,500 through a state grant administered by the DMC Economic Development Agency, and he said it covered a third of the cost for renovating his store at 25 Second St. SW.

The savings allowed him to invest in an online fundraising platform, which offers community groups a chance to sell his popcorn and keep a portion of the revenue. So far, he said local groups have raised more than $12,000.

DMC EDA Board President Clark Otley said Tines’ story is one of many downtown successes seen through the $3 million in Main Street grant funds provided by Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development to help downtown Rochester businesses.


The funds, designed to help new businesses and those that are expanding, have been divided into 54 grants to businesses and organizations, with an estimated creation of more than 270 jobs.

“Those applications reach all the corners of our society, including underserved and underrepresented groups,” Otley said, pointing out a key goal of the program was to benefit businesses owned by Black, Indigenous or people of color residents.

To reach a larger portion of the community, Otley said the DMC EDA worked with a diverse group of local entrepreneurs and community members when it evaluated grant applications.

“That was very important to us,” he said. “It really gave us great insight into some of the challenges that entrepreneurs in our community face when they are trying to develop businesses.”

Nearly a quarter of the grants are going to businesses falling in the BIPOC category, and 30% were awarded to women-led businesses.

Additionally, the grants are helping activate 22 vacant downtown spaces.

Only 33 of the grants have received final Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development approval, but the remaining 21 have been submitted for review. The grants with complete reviews range from $1,200 for Interiors by J. Curry , which moved to Rochester last year, to $500,000 for Citywalk Apartments , which is planned for the southwest corner of Second Street Southwest and Sixth Avenue.

While the complete list of confirmed grant recipients was not available Thursday, information provided during the DMCC board meeting shows a third of the grants were for less than $10,000, while two topped $200,000.


Otley said the median award was $22,290, but the various grant sizes provided a variety of help to local businesses that received them.

“We realized that relatively small grants can have a meaningful impact on entrepreneurs,” he said.

DMCC board member R.T. Rybak applauded the effort, calling the local grant program a model for other communities.

As president and CEO the Minneapolis Foundation, he said he’s also worked with similar grant programs and the key is finding an organization to do the work that helps local businesses.

“All of this money was here, in part, because there was an organization willing or able to do the additional work beyond what governments can do,” he said.

DMC Board Chairwoman Pamela Wheelock said the state DEED funds are designed to spur out-of-the-box thinking, and the DMC EDA program did that by reaching out to businesses that are often missed by existing mainstream programs.

Destination Medical Center Corp. board receives update following Mayo Clinic threat to pull construction projects out of state

She said the follow-up should include assessing the data from the program to identify barriers faced by businesses, which could help inform work outlined in future DMC plans.

“What are the impediments to entrepreneurialism in the community?” she asked.


Rybak said that knowledge will be key as work on the DMC initiative continues. While the state Main Street program was not funded this year, he encouraged the EDA to seek other potential routes for funding local efforts.

“We have to figure out how we recognize the retail base of small entrepreneurial retail as a basic piece of core infrastructure in this community,” he said.

Otley pointed out the DMC EDA has a second phase of funds that it is distributing to businesses outside the DMC district.

The state program awarded the local effort nearly $1 million last year to help businesses in two areas. One of the new districts stretches from Crossroads Shopping Center to east of Bear Creek, and the other includes the Northwest Design District and Northgate Area near Civic Center Drive and Seventh Street Northwest in Northwest Rochester.

Otley said the insights gained from the first phase of grants are being used to determine the best ways to help businesses and organizations in those districts.

“It was a very successful program, and one that will continue with the next phase,” he said.

Randy Petersen joined the Post Bulletin in 2014 and became the local government reporter in 2017. An Elkton native, he's worked for a variety of Midwest papers as reporter, photographer and editor since graduating from Winona State University in 1996. Readers can reach Randy at 507-285-7709 or
What To Read Next
Get Local