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Kelli Laudate, executive director of Downtown Sanford Inc. talks to city council members about the RISE Program for aspiring entrepreneurs.

A program geared to train and promote entrepreneurs to the next level has created a problem that no one is in a hurry to solve.

At Tuesday’s city council meeting the board approved the expansion of RISE (Real Investment in Sanford Entrepreneurs) program. The program’s coordinated mission between Downtown Sanford Inc., Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce and Central Carolina Community College’s Business Center is to provide training and opportunities for entrepreneurs to start their own business.

Kelli Laudate, executive director of Downtown Sanford Inc., said since 2020 they’ve had four graduating classes. At the end of classroom process, the potential entrepreneurs have to sell their idea to Laudate and other experts as to why they should receive a $5,000 reimbursable grant to go towards rent and other expenditures.

She said there is always a winner, but there is another problem.

“We have a successful program, but we do not have a lot of retail space for businesses to go into,” she said.

It has been required that Sanford’s downtown was the only place where these new business owners coming out of the program could only open their doors for the first time to the public, but things have changed. She said there isn’t as much business rental space to go around like there use to be due to new businesses from the program and others taking hold downtown.

At the board meeting she suggested downtown Jonesboro as a possible alternative and get the board’s approval.

“Downtown Jonesboro has a lot of empty storefronts, but it’s turning into a destination as well,” she said. “We want our graduates to look into Jonesboro if they can’t find anything in downtown Sanford.”

The board had no problem with it, approving the request.

Sanford Mayor Chet Mann said problems like this is something they want.

“The program’s job was to fill empty buildings downtown and it has been tremendously successful,” he said. “So let’s take this to Jonesboro and other parts of the city. I don’t see how anybody loses.”

“It’s a great problem to be brought to us,” he said. “The Rise Program has really done its job.”

The RISE Program starts in February. To learn more and register go to www.leesbc.com/rise/

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