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The Mesa, full of federal cash, is now accepting pitches for new businesses

Do you have an idea for a business?

If you’re willing to open in La Mesa, the city is willing to give you $20,000.

Applications opened Friday for La Mesa’s Entrepreneurship Accelerator Program, known as LEAP, potentially making the city the first in the region to use federal relief funds for new stores.

“This program will fill a gap,” Mayor Mark Arapostathis said in an interview. Residents were constantly asking for more retail and restaurants, he said, and that allowed the city to take a more direct role in supporting entrepreneurs, who in turn could fill the buildings that have grown. emptied amid the pandemic.

An estimated 5.5% of local storefronts were recently vacant, a higher rate than the region, officials said.

The project is inherently risky.

Nationally, about a fifth of new businesses close within the first two years, according to a Analysis by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics spanning from 1994 to 2015.

La Mesa hopes to beat this trend through intensive coaching and training.

Applicants must commit to working one-on-one with an advisor, analyzing potential sites, and taking courses such as “Preparing for Business Loans” and “Pitching Your Product to Retail Store Buyers.”

That could amount to up to 10 or more hours a week for months, depending on the proposal, officials said.

As participants progress, they can receive an initial payment of $10,000 and up to two additional payments of $5,000 to hire staff, pay rent and cover other expenses – and that’s not all. is not a loan. If the businesses collapse, the money does not need to be returned.

Leaders also noted that unlike programs that support small businesses in exchange for partial ownership, the city is not interested in equity. Managers just want a more vibrant community. (And maybe taxes.)

“If I live in La Mesa and work in La Mesa, it’s a lot easier for me to go volunteer at my kid’s school or coach his football team,” said James Sly, East County Economic Development Officer. Council, which will help oversee the program with the Small Business Development Center.

Applications can be submitted online at

Existing businesses that want to expand their physical locations are also eligible, according to program guidelinesalthough officials have said they plan to move away from the chains.

The application window closes at the end of July. Another round is possible, depending on the pitches received this month.

The Mesa hopes to eventually support at least 40 proposals, of the $800,000 the city council has set aside under the American Rescue Plan Act. About $80,000 of that money will go to administrative costs.

La Mesa received over $10.8 million in total.

The program is expected to last until 2026, the deadline for spending federal aid, although leaders have expressed hope that a high success rate could lead to more funding.

Questions can be directed to Lyn Dedmon, Assistant City Manager, at 619-667-1339 or [email protected]