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Community Renewal Good Stories - Columbus

Franchise Initiative Brings Popeyes, Wendy's to Columbus EZ

Columbus, Ohio, EZ

Two national fast food chains are opening eateries in the Columbus EZ in 2004, thanks to the Columbus Compact Corporation's Franchise Initiative. The two franchises - Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits and Wendy's International, Inc. - are bringing a national presence to underserved commercial areas in the EZ.

The Columbus Compact Corporation administers the Columbus, Ohio, EZ. The compact's franchise initiative offers financial resources to investors and experienced retail managers within the boundaries of the Columbus EZ.

The franchise approach enables national retailers to enter central city marketplaces at reduced risk. These enterprises benefit the EZ by redeveloping idle property, providing services, and creating entry-level jobs for residents.

Through the initiative, the Columbus Compact makes available up to $250,000 as an equity investment to support a new franchise operation. The compact then becomes a limited partner with less than 50 percent ownership. A structured 5-year exit strategy will recoup the compact's investment and leave the operator with full ownership. In addition, participating businesses receive the support of a full-service real estate development firm for tasks such as market studies, assistance in identifying and securing sites, negotiating with franchisers, and packaging bank financing, as well as assistance with site development or redevelopment.

Popeyes opened its doors for business in the Milo-Grogan neighborhood of the Near North Heritage District of Columbus in February 2004-dramatically improving the appearance of the one-half acre site, which formerly consisted of vacant lots, billboards, and two empty buildings. The Milo-Grogan restaurant is the second Popeyes franchise owned and operated by minority entrepreneurs Ron and Mary Prigmore, a local couple.

The Prigmores credit the franchise program with helping identify a site and securing financing with Huntington National Bank. The program also provided development expertise, site assembly, and predevelopment financing during the site research stage as well as subordinated debt financing for construction/ permanent financing.

Popeyes employs 35 area residents with an estimated payroll of more than $300,000. The owners are eligible to take EZ wage credits worth up to $3,000 annually for each employee who lives in the EZ.

Watermark Services LLC opened a Wendy's restaurant on East Broad Street in the Near East Heritage District in 2004. Watermark is the only franchise in the Wendy's home market owned by African Americans. This project is redeveloping a half-acre of vacant property into a one-of-a-kind, historic carriage house- style restaurant in an underserved area.

There will be 35 to 40 jobs and a payroll exceeding $400,000. The owners will be eligible for up to $3,000 per year in EZ wage credits for each employee who lives in the EZ. The initiative provided predevelopment financing, development expertise, intensive assistance with zoning variance process, and neighborhood liaison services.

For more information on the programs of the Columbus EZ, please contact President and CEO of Columbus Compact Corporation Jonathan Beard at (614) 251-0926.