Sweetwater Main Street Entrepreneur Grant

Sweetwater, Tennessee

Sweetwater is a rural East Tennessee town that has successfully preserved its historic downtown architecture and encouraged a thriving art and retail environment.

Located just off I-75 in the gently rolling hills between Knoxville and Chattanooga in Monroe County, Sweetwater offers a convenient destination for travelers seeking a beautiful historic downtown, authentic local businesses and unique East Tennessee charm. Today, the downtown is a popular day-trip and gateway destination to the some of the region’s historic, cultural, natural, and outdoor recreation assets.

In 2011, Sweetwater was accepted to the Tennessee Downtowns program. Community leaders took steps to become a nationally accredited Main Street Community in 2013. Since that time, Sweetwater Main Street leaders have participated in training, strategic planning and façade grant opportunities offered through TNECD’s Tennessee Main Street program. Sweetwater has used these grants to revitalizes its historic downtown commercial district and prepare for future business investments.

Sweetwater Main Street’s strategic plan identified the need for downtown retail and dining options. In 2017, Sweetwater Main Street received a $50,000 Main Street Entrepreneur Grant to transform an 1870’s building on Main Street into a space for retail and businesses.

The community partnered with local architect Sam Moser to develop plans for the 10,000-square-foot building at 111 N. Main Street. The MEG funding supported amenities for a new restaurant, rental assistance and an incubator space for local entrepreneurs. Sweetwater Main Street invited entrepreneurs to apply for available space in the building. As part of the grant, entrepreneurs would receive one year of rental assistance and storefront signage.

The new businesses received free training through the Tennessee Small Business Development Center at Cleveland State Community College. This six-session training program ran in fall 2017 and served all beneficiaries of the grant as well as additional downtown business owners. Attendees worked through topics such as marketing and branding, cost analysis, business planning, financial statements, retail and sales practices, employee relations, operations, social media, and identifying customer personas during class activities.


Economic Impact

Sweetwater Main Street and key partners are on pace to exceed their local goals to add at least three new businesses with 8-15 employees and create $150,000 in new annual gross sales in the downtown district. The building, which had been vacant for seven years, officially opened in April 2018 with four new businesses. In addition, property owner Sam Moser located his new architectural firm on the second floor. There are future plans for the still vacant third floor which could include residential rental property to meet the demand for more downtown housing. First year results include

TNECD MainStreet Entrepreneur Grant Funding
(Restaurant space improvements, rent incentives, awning and signage) 
TNECD MainStreet Strategic Planning Services $2,000
Estimated Private Investment
(building acquisition and construction, business furnishings and equipment)    
Total Project Funding $347,000

Project Leaders and Partners

Sweetwater Main Street – Executive Director – Project Contact
The City of Sweetwater – City Recorder – Project Contact
Main Street Studio Architects
Cleveland State Community College
Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development

For project information contact the Sweetwater Main Street at the City of Sweetwater.

Tennessee MainStreet and MainStreet Entrepreneur Grant Program

Downtown revitalization is a critical component of successful rural economic and community development. The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development encourages entrepreneurship development and adaptive reuse of commercial buildings in downtown business districts with the Main Street Entrepreneur Grant program that funds activities that put vacant and/or underutilized buildings into productive service and serve as economic drivers for downtowns and to develop entrepreneurs. The Tennessee Main Street and Main Street Entrepreneur Grant programs work together to help communities revitalize their downtown districts and create new businesses through the Governor’s Rural Task Force and Tennessee Rural Economic Opportunity Act of 2016 and 2017.

For more information visit TNECD Community and Rural Development.