Bolton Council wants property agents to help them offer grant incentives of up to £20,000 towards reuse of vacant retail and leisure units.
The council plans to make grants totalling £1.5m as it attempts to attract a wide range of businesses to take over empty properties. It will work directly with businesses and with property agents.
Grants of up to £20,000 will be available while applications for more than £20,000 will also be considered on a case by case basis.
The council wants to attract operators of independent shops, premium cafés and restaurants, convenience stores, toy shops and fashion boutiques.
As well as being used to attract new businesses the grants could be used to attract former retailers back into the town centre. Bradshawgate will be also targeted to attract restaurants to broaden its evening economy.
Businesses such as betting shops, pound shops, alcohol-based retailers, cash exchange shops and pawnbrokers, and hot food takeaways will not be eligible.
Potential retailers will be contacted about the scheme and because the council does not own most of the property in the town centre it will also be speaking to property agents so that they can promote it to their potential clients.
Cllr Cliff Morris, leader of Bolton Council, said: "We have taken in to account the views of key retailers and shoppers, and looked at what has been successful elsewhere to develop this scheme.
"Naturally, we want to help the local economy, and support retailers and budding entrepreneurs during these difficult times. Bolton like other town and cities throughout the country has been affected by the economic downturn, and the growth of online and out of town shopping."