GRESHAM - Downtown is the core, the heart of every town and city. To keep that heart beating, Gresham is taking a bold step to bring new businesses in and keep the ones they have.

The plan is so simple, other cities from across the country are saying, Why didn't we think of that?

There is no doubt Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis is proud of his city. On a recent walk down Main Street he stopped to sample some Carmel Corn, fresh from the popper at iCandy, a new store open just two months. The city's Small Business Incentive Plan made it possible.

There's going to be no fees as far as business licenses, no fees in system development charges. And by the way we're going to have someone at the counter to help you through the entire process and be your advocate, said Mayor Bemis.

Without the incentives, iCandy co-owner Debbie Eggers said she and her business partner Janelle Mikula would not have been able to open the store.

They were just there when we needed them, they came in and did the inspection, they made it very very simple for us, said Eggers.

City incentives saved the store around $20,000 in fees. This helped the business duo hire three employees.

In the past year, 55,000 square feet of unused retail space has been filled with 41 new business because of the Small Business Incentives.

Just a block off Main Street is Lillian's Natural Marketplace. Lillian Negron is celebrating the store's first anniversary.

Incentives amounting to $26,000 made it possible to bring the store to reality.

Without the city's help I would have done something else, said Negron.

The store now provides 13 jobs in the community.

Efforts to bring in new business extends beyond city limits. Fresh from a trip to Germany with the state, Mayor Bemis was there to encourage more solar clean manufacturers to set up shop in Gresham.

Anytime you can meet with qualified leaders and do the old belly-to-belly, handshake, eye-to-eye it's better than email or anything, said Bemis.

That simple approach seems to be working well all along a bustling Main Street in downtown Gresham.

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