Madison Public Market rendering

A preliminary design concept of the Madison Public Market shows a three-story structure near the intersection of East Washington Avenue and First Street.

The opening of the Madison Public Market is still more than two years away, but a program to encourage entrepreneurial minorities, veterans, low-income residents and LGBTQ people to be part of the market has been launched by the city. 

Thirty people will be accepted into the MarketReady program that offers consulting services, referrals to financing, mentoring opportunities with other small business owners and micro-financing. Fifteen of the 30 members will also receive $3,500 grants to help with training and small start-up costs. At the end of the two-year program, five of those 15 will be awarded $14,000 toward building out their space at the market, planned for the corner of East Washington Avenue and First Street.

"It's a long timeline," said Abha Thakkar, executive director of the Northside Planning Council, which is administering the MarketReady program for the city. "Our program is specifically geared at under-represented business owners. We've had so many people contacting us and showing interest in the program."

In March and April, MarketReady coordinator and new Northside Planning Council staff member Ian Aley met with more than 20 local organizations. His outreach work included a radio segment on La Movida, promotion at three local community events and an information session in Hmong and English. The next information session is scheduled for 1-3 p.m. Sunday at Centro Hispano, 810 W. Badger Road. A second informational meeting is set from 5:30-7:30 p.m. June 6 at the Urban League of Greater Madison, 2222 S. Park St., Suite 200. Interpretation services are available but should be arranged prior to the meeting by calling 608-204-7029.

Applications to enter the MarketReady program are due by July 1.

The 2017 city budget includes $1.2 million, much of it for the design phase of the Public Market project, but the bulk of funding -- $11.8 million, including $3 million in city borrowing -- is envisioned for 2018, when construction would begin. The market, scheduled to open in 2019, is projected to have more than $12 million annually in food sales, incubate 35 businesses, create 265 full-time jobs across the region, and deliver a $22 million annual economic impact, according to city estimates.

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Send retail-related tips and story ideas to badams@madison.com or call Barry Adams at 608-252-6148.

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Barry Adams covers regional and business news for the Wisconsin State Journal.