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 tool for Chelsea’s small business community to work through paperwork, permits and grant opportunities available across the city, state and beyond.
“The city was trying to address one of its main concerns, which is that there wasn’t one person that small businesses could go to, they had to go to each individual department,” Miranda said.
Miranda said he serves as someone business people can talk to and he can advocate for businesses.
Some of the areas where Miranda can support businesses is by helping them with technical assistance, storefront improvements and grant assistance.
Miranda said one of the biggest parts of his new job is getting out into the community and seeing what needs there are.
“We have many plans to provide assistance to child care providers,” Miranda said. “Many are home-based, so we do site visits and see what their needs are so that when we develop programs, we know what they really need.”
Another major city initiative for the business community is the creation of incubator programs and spaces where small businesses can begin to thrive.
Miranda noted the partnership Chelsea has with private developers to build affordable housing and retail space in the former Salvation Army building at 444 Broadway.
“We’re excited about that project,” Miranda said. “It looks like in the future, small businesses may not need a full space and may share locations.”
Miranda is from Puerto Rico and has a background in music and entertainment tour management.
As a Spanish speaker, Miranda said she feels like she can put more people at ease navigating the paperwork and bureaucracy at City Hall. His background in music and the recreation department also makes him comfortable going out into the community and meeting the people where they live and work, from the business corridor to Broadway 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’s tried to steer businesses toward programs and grants that can 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 many business opportunities for facade or storefront improvements,” he said. “A lot of people took over businesses that closed down and want to improve the businesses.”
Another big issue in the small business community is opening up the potential for restaurants to offer outdoor dining post-Covid, while ensuring there isn’t 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,” Miranda said.
Miranda encouraged anyone who needs help from the city with their small business to call her at (617) 466-4198 or email her at [email protected]