Downtown Anywhere, USA has been having a tough time sustaining vibrancy for retail stores.

The shopping centers and the internet have taken their toll on downtown stores. When you were growing up, the Star Store and Cherry & Webb were anchors dotted by busy little "mom and pop" shops.

But that was then, this is now. So when I heard about the Rent Rebate Program, designed to help the establishment of small businesses with Taunton's Downtown Business District, it piqued my interest.

This program allows the City of Taunton's Office of Economic and Community Development to provide rental assistance, by reducing the cost of overhead expenses for small businesses locating into vacant storefronts and upper floor spaces during the first two years of operation.

Governor Charlie Baker's economic development bill includes a provision based on the Rent Rebate Program that's helped lure businesses back to vacant downtown storefronts.

The Taunton version of the program gives direct rebates on rents up to $7,500 over two years. So far, close to a dozen shops have enrolled.

New Bedford, if it doesn't have something like this already, should consider a Whaling City version.

Phil Paleologos is the host of The Phil Paleologos Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @PhilPaleologos. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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