Omar Miranda is no stranger to City Hall, having worked in the recreation department for nearly five years.
But on Halloween, Miranda took on a new role in the city, as its Small Business Development Specialist. The position is funded through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), and is a one-stop shop for Chelsea’s small business community to work through the paperwork, permitting, and grant opportunities available through the city, the state, and beyond.
“The city was trying to address one of its main concerns, which is that there was not a point person for small businesses to go to, they had to go to each individual department,” said Miranda.
Miranda said he serves as someone business people can talk to and he can advocate for the businesses.
Some of the areas where Miranda can support businesses is through helping them with technical assistance, storefront improvements, and grant assistant.
Miranda said one of the biggest parts of his new job is to go out in the community and see what needs there are.
“We have a lot of plans to give assistance to childcare providers,” said Miranda. “A lot are home based, so we do site visits and see what their needs are so that when we do develop programs, we know what they really need.”
Another big initiative by the city for the business community is creating incubator programs and spaces where small businesses can get off the ground and begin to thrive.
Miranda pointed to the partnership Chelsea has with private developers to build affordable housing and retail space at the former Salvation Army building at 444 Broadway.
“We are excited about that project,” said Miranda. “It seems like in the future, small businesses might not need a full space and can share locations.”
Miranda is from Puerto Rico and has a background in music and entertainment tour management.
As a Spanish speaker, Miranda said he feels like he can make more people comfortable navigating the paperwork and bureaucracy at City Hall. His background in music and in the recreation department also makes him comfortable getting out to the community and meeting with people where they live and work, from the Broadway business corridor to all parts of Chelsea.
One of the biggest concerns Miranda said he’s heard during his time on the job is the rising cost of energy and utilities, and Miranda said he has tried to steer businesses towards programs and grants that could help with those energy costs.
Miranda said many business owners have expressed gratitude that the city has been able to provide assistance over the past several years.
“There are also a lot of business opportunities for facade or storefront improvements,” he said. “A lot of people took over businesses that were shut down, and want to improve the businesses.”
Another big issue in the small business community is opening up the potential for restaurants to provide outdoor dining post-Covid, while making sure there is not a significant loss of parking spaces.
“I think the city is rethinking how to make (outdoor dining) a regular thing without taking away parking spaces and keeping it safe,” said Miranda.
Miranda encouraged anyone who needs help from the city for their small business to call him at (617) 466-4198 or email him at [email protected].