Grant legislation would help small businesses

Council member Joe Carlucci’s ordinance helps both recipients and city-approved contractors.

  • By Ric Anderson
  • | 9:44 a.m. March 21, 2024
  • | 4 Free Articles Remaining!
An ordinance introduced by City Council member Joe Carlucci that would help small businesses is on its way to a final vote by Council.
An ordinance introduced by City Council member Joe Carlucci that would help small businesses is on its way to a final vote by Council.
File image
  • Government
  • Share

In an example of one good turn deserving another, the Jacksonville City Council is nearing a final vote on legislation that would help small businesses take better advantage of a city facade grant program while helping other small businesses land work.  

Ordinance 2024-0165 enhances the Office of Economic Development’s long-standing facade grant program by eliminating a requirement for businesses to provide matching funds if improvements are done through a contractor registered in the Jacksonville Small and Emerging Business program. 

It also would increase the funding level for the grant.

Council member Joe Carlucci introduced the ordinance, which passed in the Rules and Finance committees March 18 and 19 on its way to a final vote by the Council. 

Joe Carlucci

Carlucci said the idea originated when he noticed a couple of businesses in his district that needed some help with their signage and exterior paint. Carlucci represents District 5, which stretches from the Downtown Southbank through San Marco and south to the Sunbeam neighborhood.

Seeking help for the business owners, Carlucci reached out to the Neighborhoods Department and Office of Economic Development and got information about the grant program, which provides grants of up to $5,000 and $10,000, respectively, for businesses in Level 1 and Level 2 economically distressed areas of the city.

Carlucci said he appreciated that the program was available but wasn’t pleased to learn that it required businesses to put up one-to-one matching funds.

“I thought, why are we requiring a match of $5,000 or $10,000 in our economically distressed areas?” he said.

Reasoning that vulnerable businesses might simply not be able to spare several thousands of dollars in matching funds, Carlucci began searching for a solution that would make the funding more available.

Through collaboration with JESB director Gregory Grant and OED CEO Ed Randolph, he hit on the idea of looping JSEB contractors into the program. 

JSEB offers qualified contractors, subcontractors and service providers certification to bid on city contracts. The list includes painters, landscapers, sign makers and other contractors who can perform facade work.

“I’m thinking we can help two businesses in one (ordinance),” he said. 

“What it’s doing is unlocking the grant dollars for more of the vulnerable businesses. And on the flip side, if people are looking at this and you’re a painter or electrician or sign business, you’re going to get an opportunity to do business.” 

The ordinance raises the maximum grant amounts to $7,500 for Level 1 and $15,000 for Level 2, changes that reflect increases in construction and labor costs since the funding levels were last adjusted about 15 years ago. 

Carlucci said the city is placing $200,000 into the grant program this month. 

He’s working with an auto service shop along Atlantic Boulevard to become the showcase business for the revamped program. 

“What everybody wants is high-quality businesses in their community,” he said. 

“Making improvements like these can transform not only a business but a community.” 

The ordinance drew the support of a special committee on JSEB that was organized by Council President Ron Salem. Council members Raul Arias, Ken Amaro, Mike Gay and Reggie Gaffney Jr. are co-sponsoring the legislation.

More information on qualifications for the program is available from the Office of Economic Development at 904-255-5444 or online at



Special Offer: $5 for 2 Months!

Your free article limit has been reached this month.
Subscribe now for unlimited digital access to our award-winning business news.