KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – A new loan program launched in downtown Kingsport aims to keep the Model City from becoming a ghost town by helping small businesses grow.
“We do have vacancies in downtown Kingsport but those are at a steady clip being filled,” said Downtown Kingsport Association’s Robin Cleary. “We have probably the most economic development activity in downtown Kingsport that a lot of our city leadership folks have seen in the last 15 to 20 years. A lot of interest right now as we all know if you read news on a national level, small towns across America are seeing a transition.”
That transition, she explained, is population growth and in turn, business growth.
Move to Kingsport reports an average of 70 families moved to Kingsport every month during the pandemic and that population influx persists to this day.
This new business loan program is poised to grow local businesses as well.
“The Downtown Kingsport Loan Program is a relatively new program for us. It is a partnership with the First Tennessee Development District. We have six lending institutions all of which have a branch or presence in downtown Kingsport that have put up the backing for this loan program. It is a low-interest long-term loan program,” Cleary said.
She said the program is not just for new investors, but for existing businesses in downtown Kingsport.
“Typically small businesses don’t have a large slush fund set aside to help out with unexpected expenses. So, say your restaurant and your refrigeration unit goes out or an AC unit goes out. This is a loan program that you can apply for to help,” Cleary added.
And that is exactly what Jessica Cunningham did.
She is the owner of Jessica Paige Esthetics Boutique, and opened a small salon in February 2020, before opening her boutique a year later.
“I was the first one to receive it for downtown Kingsport so yeah, we are very excited about it. We will be using it to purchase equipment to put in new windows to you know, do paint and a build-out and retail fixtures, all of that,” Cunningham said.
The salon offers a myriad of services including facials to lash extensions, full body waxing, brow services, and even classes.
Her boutique sells products geared to the female market.
“We sell all kinds of things in here, luxury loungewear we just started adding cute little clothing pieces. We’ve got self-care items of bath bombs, and body care products. And yeah, some of our products actually give back to female communities, female entrepreneurs, so we pride ourselves in that and we’re just really glad to be downtown,” Cunningham said.
The Kingsport-native grew emotional when speaking about the significance of the influx of cash into her business thanks to the loan program.
“Two years ago, when I started, it was you know in the middle of COVID and I thought, I had this leap of faith that I had taken was, you know, in vain. I was really worried about what was going to happen to my little business. So to come as far as I’ve come in and to have all of these clients and friends and family that support me means the world,” she said.
When she started the business she said she received plenty of support from friends and family, but the loan will help her grow her business and clientele.
“I’m hoping within the larger space that we’ll be able to offer some affordable booth rental spaces for other professionals to come on. I am very passionate about teaching and education. So I do run my own lash classes. I’m a Novalash trainer. So with a new location, I can expand on my training and be able to educate more lash artists in the area. And I think that by helping me you’re helping a lot of other women in the process,” she said.
To qualify for this loan program, you need to be in business in the downtown business district footprint, Cleary said.
The terms of the loan would be up to 20 years for purchasing a building, and up to five years to pay off equipment purchased.
For more information about the loan program, CLICK HERE.