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December 5, 2023

Hartford's Hart Lift business grant program receives national recognition

Contributed Emrey’s Specialty Sweets & Sodas, a vintage candy shop modeled after 'soda shoppes' of the mid-20th century, recently opened at 196 Trumbull St. in Hartford.

The city of Hartford's small business grant program, Hart Lift, has received a national economic development award.

On Monday, city officials announced the award at Emrey's Specialty Sweets & Sodas, at 196 Trumbull St., a Hart Lift recipient, which recently opened.

Hart Lift received an Excellence Award from the International Economic Development Council, a nonprofit organization for economic developers with more than 4,500 members, according to its website. 

Hart Lift was among eight winners in the "federal resources awards" category. The program received the gold medal for a city with a population between 25,000 and 200,000.

The city launched Hart Lift in 2021, using $6 million in federal pandemic relief funds to offer grants of up to $150,000 to help outfit space for new retail and restaurant businesses. It later added another $1 million in funding.

According to the awards brochure, Hart Lift has sparked the redevelopment of 65 restaurants and retail establishments in Hartford, of which 70% are minority-, women- and Black-owned. 

After 18 months, all of the original $6 million has been awarded, though not all of it has been deployed, according to the brochure. 

Hart Lift grants have been used to help offset the cost to building owners to redevelop vacant spaces, in an effort to bring workers back to the office in the city's Central Business District following the switch to remote work during the pandemic.

Hart Lift was created by the city of Hartford and administered through the Hartford Chamber of Commerce.

Recipients of Hart Lift grants include Social House in the former G. Fox Building, 153 Market St.; RAW seafood bar at 280 Trumbull St.; among others.

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