Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance to close $20,000 contest applications in one week

Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance

Updated June 23

Just one week remains for aspiring and current business owners to apply for Race for the Space, an opportunity for entrepreneurs to select a rental property in Cedar Rapids, earn $20,000 in rent or overhead costs and receive $7,500 in credit.

“We kicked off this program in April and it has been an exciting two months,” said Jesse Thoeming, downtown executive director, in a statement. “We can’t wait to dive
deeper into the applications and add an amazing new business venture to our vibrant

The winning business will be able to choose between 5 different rental properties and will earn a year’s membership to the Cedar Rapids Economic Alliance.

Applications must be submitted by June 30 and the winner will be announced in August.

Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance is now accepting applications for a new program called “Race for the Space,” which gives businesses the chance to go head-to-head for the opportunity to win $20,000 toward rent and build out at a selected property in downtown Cedar Rapids.

In addition to the $20,000, the selected business will also receive a $7,500 credit toward architectural design services and buildout support with Form Function Studio, and a complimentary 8-week owner education course to build a more valuable business provided by BerganKDV, according to a release.

The competition is being produced by the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance and funded by the Downtown SSMID (Self-Supported Municipal Improvement District). Race for the Space is one of the first of its kind for the region, with inspiration coming from downtown Ithaca, New York.

“It’s been a difficult two years with the pandemic and the derecho, but downtown Cedar
Rapids has seen incredible momentum,” said Jesse Thoeming, downtown executive director, in the release. “With new housing opportunities, expansion of large employers, thriving cultural amenities, and growing attendance to downtown events, now felt like the right time to keep that momentum going by seeking out the next exciting, must-see, new downtown hot spot in the district.”

The Race for the Space program is looking for “any and every type of business”, according to the release. The selected business could be an experiential retailer, new entrepreneur, event space, maker-space, dual-purpose business, current business looking for a second location or a wildly different culinary experience.

“In a world that is increasingly shifting to online interactions, we’re looking for someone with a big idea that will draw people to downtown Cedar Rapids which will lead to more foot traffic for existing businesses and our cultural attractions.” Mr. Thoeming said in the release.

The Race for the Space application will be available at www.raceforthespacecr.org on
Wednesday, April 27 and will close on Thursday, June 30. Finalists for the Race for the
Space program will be asked to present their business concept at a “Shark Tank” style event the beginning of August with the announcement of a winner shortly after.

If you are interested in supporting Race for the Space or want to learn more, reach out to Jesse Thoeming, downtown executive director, at jthoeming@cedarrapids.org or Nikki Wilcox, communications director, at nwilcox@cedarrapids.org.