Lisbon unveils 'Bright Idea' to lure Main Street startups

Selected business will get free rent, utilities

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A lucky startup company soon will be winning up to two years of free rent, utilities included, in Lisbon's most thoroughly renovated Main Street building.

The rent deal will be the prize in a sort of business plan competition aiming to attract more long-term businesses to fill underused and vacant downtown buildings in Mount Vernon and Lisbon.

Project Bright Idea Business Plan Competition was launched by Moon Eye Ventures, a local development company, and by the Mount Vernon-Lisbon Community Development Group.

It's a serious idea, with legal requirements and paperwork to prove it. Applicants are expected to be new or early stage independent, for-profit ventures. They'll have to submit a draft business plan by 4:30 p.m., March 15, and meet other requirements such as submitting a resume, credit report and various legal waivers.

"We have a great desire to revitalize our Main Street," said Eric Krob, owner of the building being offered and a partner in Moon Eye Ventures.

He said Main Street has a smattering of service, food and beverage businesses, but too many vacant and underutilized buildings.

The 1,000-square-foot two-level brick building reserved for the winner is at 134 E. Main St., Lisbon. It's historic on the outside, dating back to 1881, and modern on the inside, having been fully renovated fewer than five years ago.

Krob obtained the building for a small amount from the city of Lisbon to save it from demolition. It had served for many years as a family residence and dental office before falling into disrepair.

Krob turned the space into a coffee house. It opened in 2009, but didn't survive the Great Recession. Kivetta Software, a software startup co-owned by Krob, then moved into the space.

Project Bright Idea's organizer hope that the winning company will stay in the community even after their two-year maximum time limit in the building runs out, and another winner is chosen to take over the space, Krob said.

The selection committee will select up to five finalists. They then will be asked to submit their completed business plans and applications by 4:30 p.m., April 19, after which a winner will be chosen.

Winners will be judged on six criteria the concept of their business, its potential economic impact, their personal qualifications, the feasibility of and market need for the business, its fit for the proposed site, and the quality of their oral presentation.

Kivetta Software of Lisbon develops and markets software to make procurement of supplies and materials for school districts more efficient and economical. Kivetta CEO Dave Cechota said the three-year-old company is now moving to larger quarters on Highway 30 in Lisbon.

"Moving out, even though I like the space, represents something great for Kivetta," Cechocta said, adding that the company plans to ramp up its marketing.

Cechota, Krob and Bill DeJong are partners in Moon Eye Ventures. The group hopes to influence Main Street revitalization in Mount Vernon and Lisbon equally.

"While it's two cities, it really like one community with a long Main Street," Cechota said.

Joe Jennison, director of Main Street and Marketing for the Mount Vernon-Lisbon Community Development Group, said Project Bright Idea is 1 of 10 community betterment projects the group is pursuing.

Krob said it's possible more than one business could be selected if it appeared from the business plan submittals that there were two applicants, such as web-based businesses, that could easily share the roughly 1,100 square feet of physical space.

How to Enter:

Contact Joe Jennison at the Mount Vernon-Lisbon Community Development Group at 319-210-9935 or visit

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