Category: News

21 businesses apply to SBIF in Western Avenue South

The City of Chicago’s Small Business Improvement Fund (SBIF) is one of the best tools we have to promote economic development, add high-quality jobs, and strengthen businesses in our service area.

In June, SBIF was open in the Western Avenue South TIF District in the North Center neighborhood; we’re thrilled to announce 21 businesses applied for grants!

SBIF provides businesses with reimbursable grants for permanent building improvements in TIF districts across the city. The program is open to commercial and industrial businesses.

SBIF funds can be used for projects such as storefront renovations, building systems, interior remodeling, and roof replacements.

Commercial businesses are eligible for grants covering 30%, 60%, or 90% of a project’s costs while industrial businesses with 200 or fewer employees can receive reimbursement for 50% of the cost of a building upgrade.

North Branch Works staff conducted extensive outreach for the program in Western Avenue South, including canvassing the area with staff from 47th Ward Alderman Matt Martin’s office (pictured below right) and writing a story promoting SBIF for 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack’s newsletter.

In addition, we made hundreds of phone calls, emails, and sent letters encouraging eligible businesses to apply.

Many of the 20 applications resulted from our outreach to businesses such as Delmark Records, Environmental Futures, Burning Bush Brewery, E & J Foreign Cars, and more.

And thanks to our outreach efforts, we’re excited to welcome Drs. Valdes & Kulekowskis Podiatry (pictured above) as our newest member business in Western Avenue South. Stay tuned for a feature of this dynamic woman and minority-owned podiatry practice that serves low-income Chicagoans.

SBIF continues to open in TIF Districts across the city every month. Some of the SBIFs that will open close to North Branch Works’ service area include:

  • Fullerton/Milwaukee in August 2021,
  • Western Avenue North in October 2021
  • Avondale in November 2021.

The next TIF District scheduled to open for SBIF in our service area is Addison South in March of 2022. Western Avenue South will open again in June of 2022.

To see a full calendar of SBIF openings, please go here.

With questions about SBIF and North Branch Works’ low-interest Small Business Loan Fund, please contact Steve Simmons, 773-929-5552 x2226, steve@northbranchworks.org

Image credit: Drs. Valdes & Kulekowskis Podiatry

Rezoning of 1838 N. Elston highlights need for city plan for industrial land

Last week, the Chicago Plan Commission approved the rezoning of the former Wagner Foundry site at 1838 N. Elston Avenue from heavy manufacturing to a residential business planned development.

North Branch Works opposed this zoning change because it would break up a block of properties zoned for manufacturing, which is incredibly valuable and supports equitable neighborhoods.

Our letter to the Chicago Plan Commission highlights these points and others.

Having available land for industrial use positions the city to recruit new companies that provide high-quality family-sustaining jobs without requiring advanced degrees.

1838 N. Elston is in the heart of our service area where many industrial businesses are thriving. These companies include SIPI Metals, Howe Corporation, O’Brien Metal, and Chicago Roof Deck and Garden.

The Elston Avenue Industrial Corridor has experienced great success because businesses could plan for and rely upon compatible surrounding land uses.

It’s easy to see this zoning change as one land parcel. But we’ve already seen an alarming trend of the reduction of industrial land along the North Branch. At the same time, the industrial real estate market is booming.

We want to see Chicago take advantage of this market by attracting new industrial companies and high-quality jobs to our area. And to see that growth we have to preserve the remaining land zoned for industrial use along the North Branch.

One of Chicago’s greatest strengths is a diversified economy that helps the city  thrive during good times and survive any major economic downturns.

Industrial companies play a major role in strengthening Chicago’s economy by carrying out essential work and employing people in head-of-household jobs. Continuing to reduce industrial land on the North Side will harm Chicago’s economy.

For these reasons, North Branch Works sees an urgent need to develop a citywide plan for preserving industrial land so that decision-makers like the Chicago Plan Commission can consider any proposed conversion of industrial land within the context of the city as a whole.

We call on the Chicago Plan Commission and Chicago Department of Planning and Development to lead this effort and stand ready to help them with research and on-the-ground knowledge of our service area.

North Branch Works mourns the passing of Kevin Clark at Logan & Western

The viability of Chicago’s industrial and commercial corridors relies upon people having safe and easy access to them regardless of how they choose to travel to, from, and within these important areas.

North Branch Works is deeply saddened by the tragic passing of Kevin Clark in a crash while riding his bike at Logan Boulevard and Western Avenue, a notoriously dangerous intersection in our service area for all transportation users.

We stand with Logan Square Neighborhood Association, Active Transportation Alliance, and Kevin Clark’s family and friends in calling on our elected officials to build safety improvements immediately at Logan and Western.

It’s clear that the intersection of Logan and Western is broken and has been neglected for far too long. We can’t wait any longer for safety upgrades that will save lives and strengthen neighborhoods and local businesses.

The commercial area on Logan Boulevard east of Western Avenue is a vibrant economic hub with people frequently traveling to and from it for work and to purchase goods and services.

In 2018, the Active Transportation Alliance worked with Logan Square Neighborhood Association to develop a variety of community-informed recommendations to improve the intersection (see image right), including adding a protected bike lane, improving lighting and the timing of traffic signals, and installing a new crosswalk on the south side of Logan across Western.

If you live in Chicago, please take a moment to sign this petition calling on Mayor Lightfoot and your alderman to fix Logan and Western and make streets safer for biking across the city.

The family of Kevin Clark, Active Transportation Alliance, and Chicago Ride of Silence will hold a vigil and press conference on Saturday, June 12th at 10 a.m. at the Logan Square Monument.

If you plan to attend, please RSVP to the Facebook event.

Image credits: Active Transportation Alliance and Port Urbanism

Ravinia Brewing opens new taproom in Logan Square

A family-friendly establishment, Ravinia Brewing’s new taproom recently opened in Logan Square, adding an incredible destination where you can enjoy innovative craft beers and freshly made Mexican street fare.

Located at 2601 W. Diversey Avenue in between the Green Exchange and the Kennedy Expressway, the much-anticipated opening comes two years after the business began brewing beer on this site.

A relative newcomer to the thriving craft beer scene, Ravinia Brewing began distribution in 2017, growing out of the Ravinia District in Highland Park where the company opened its first location, an award-winning taproom and taco bar.

The menu at the new taproom features a variety of mouth-watering Mexican street food such as hand-pressed tortillas and tacos (see below left) along with breakfast burritos, bowls, salads, and dynamic vegetarian options.

And the beer selection is an amazing compliment to the food offerings. Some of the available beers include the Diversey Station, a session pale ale, and small-batch limited releases such as the Isle of Hops, a hazy IPA, and Casa de Guava, a Berliner Weisse.

The new taproom has a creative floorplan with window swings, intimate booths, bar service, and retractable garage doors. The design reflects Ravinia Brewing’s strong commitment to protecting the health and safety of its customers as well as its three core pillars of “Community, Craft, and Creation.”

If you visit the taproom, you can take comfort knowing the company is following strict COVID-19 protocols including requiring masks, social distancing, and providing hand sanitizer.

The new space also includes Chicago history as the bar dates back to a pre-Prohibition establishment located at Diversey Avenue and Halsted Street.

And you can escape behind the taproom to a hidden beer garden decorated with string lights and barrels. The garden offers plenty of room to enjoy late night entertainment and host private events.

Getting to Ravinia Brewing’s new location is relatively easy via public transportation as you can hop on the CTA’s #76 Diversey Bus, which will drop you off in front of the taproom. And the brewpub is within walking distance for most residents of Avondale and Logan Square.

For people driving, it’s easy to get to the taproom from the Kennedy Expressway. There’s a small private parking lot on the south side of Diversey Avenue just east of the business and street parking nearby.

Currently, the new brewpub is open: Tuesday through Thursday from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 12 a.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

North Branch Works members and supporters can help Ravinia Brewing Company by visiting the taproom frequently. You can also purchase beer to go in person.

Please follow Ravinia Brewing on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Sign up for the latest news and specials here.

We’re thrilled to welcome Ravinia Brewing Company to the neighborhood and look forward to supporting the company’s continued success and growth.

With questions and to connect with Ravinia Brewing, please contact: info@raviniabrewing.com

Image credits: Ravinia Brewing Company

 

 

Allies for Community Business, an incredible resource for small businesses

A nonprofit, Community Development Financial Institution, Allies for Community Business strengthens small businesses by helping them access capital, develop innovative strategies through coaching, and collaborate to obtain important resources.

Located in East Garfield Park on Chicago’s West Side, Allies for Community Business works with public, private, and nonprofit partners to serve entrepreneurs and small businesses in Illinois and Indiana.

Formerly known as Accion Chicago, Allies for Community Business focuses on underserved communities including businesses owned by Black, Latinx, women, and low-income people.

The organization has a loan program and can make loans to startups and existing businesses ranging from $500 to $100,000. And if a business needs a loan greater than $100,000, A4CB can connect them to other lenders in its network.

The loan program targets businesses that historically experience difficulty accessing capital through the conventional lending system. Unlike other lenders, Allies for Community Business does not use credit scores or place liens on personal assets.

Instead, the organization makes its lending decisions based on how well a business has managed its debt over the past two years and how much income is available for monthly payments. For more information and to apply for a loan, please go here.

Along with its lending program, Allies for Community Business maintains a webpage with current grant opportunities for businesses. A4CB staff encourages and helps businesses to apply for grants before considering its loan program.

In addition to helping businesses access capital, Allies for Community Business offers individual and group coaching sessions for early-stage, emerging, and established businesses. To learn more about its trainings and to schedule a session, please go here.

Allies for Community Business also specializes in helping food and beverage entrepreneurs invest in underserved communities. In 2016, the organization formed a partnership with the Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago. Together they launched The Hatchery, a 67,000 square foot food and beverage incubator on the West Side.

Some of the resources available to businesses at The Hatchery include: fifty-four private kitchens leasable per year, five shared kitchen spaces rentable by the hour, and a twelve-week training program for aspiring chefs ages 16 to 25.

During the pandemic, Allies for Community Business understood the overwhelming need for its services and accelerated its programming, resulting in the allocation of nearly $400 million in grants and loans to 22,000 businesses, and 15,000 businesses receiving customized trainings.

Recently, Allies for Community Business became one of eight regional business centers funded by the City of Chicago. Thanks to this program, the nonprofit has expanded its services to help businesses resolve licensing issues and obtain public way permits, which previously required a trip to City Hall.

North Branch Works members and supporters can help Allies for Community Business by signing up for its newsletter and following A4CB on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.

We’re proud to partner with Allies for Community Business and would like to thank Mary Fran Riley (see below, second from left), Director of Community Relationships, for participating in our recent Spring Fundraiser.

With questions and to connect with Allies for Community Business, please reach out to Yessenia Diaz De Leon, Associate Director of Community Business, ydiazdeleon@a4cb.org.

Image credits: Allies for Community Business

MxD building the capacity of American manufacturers

Arising from an awareness the U.S. federal government needed to strengthen American manufacturing, MxD successfully obtained a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to create a manufacturing institute in Chicago in 2014.

Prior to this grant opportunity, Illinois faced a vexing problem: many of its high-caliber engineering and science graduates left the state after graduation due to a lack of attractive career opportunities.

To address this challenge, a group of motivated stakeholders including leaders from area universities, private industry, the City of Chicago and State of Illinois, and economic development groups banded together to catalog the region’s many strengths, including manufacturing and computer science, and put together a multisector strategy to better leverage these assets.

Because of this strong foundation, when former President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology recommended creating a nationwide network of manufacturing institutes, MxD (known then as UI LABS) quickly presented a strong application. The organization’s proposal won initial grants totaling $80 million from the U.S. Department of Defense and received support from the City of Chicago and State of Illinois to convert a former windows and doors factory into its innovation center.

Today, MxD is a woman-led, membership-based manufacturing institute that occupies a state-of-the-art facility on Goose Island (1415 N. Cherry St.) with a 22,000 square-foot shop floor (see below right). MxD is the second of 16 manufacturing institutes created by the federal government across the country.

Birds-eye view of the factory floor at the MxD Innovation facility.

Some of MxD’s high-profile members include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Siemens, John Deere, Microsoft, Lockheed Martin, and AT&T.

Over the course of its seven-year history, MxD has facilitated public-private partnerships that have invested more than $120 million in 85 different projects. In addition, MxD employs approximately forty people in high-quality jobs.

Recently, MxD launched a Supplier Diversity Procurement Program that allows companies to identify as a diverse supplier, giving them an advantage in applying for projects. If your company is a diverse supplier, you can register here at no cost.

Along with a strong commitment to supplier diversity, MxD is especially proud to have a Board of Directors that is majority women. This stands out in the manufacturing sector, which is typically two-thirds men and one-third women.

A major issue that MxD helps manufacturers address is cybersecurity. It’s a high priority for MxD because a malicious attack can cost your company thousands in damages and reverberate throughout the supply chain. Learn more about the steps you can take to protect your company or consider how you might advance your own career in cybersecurity.

Joining MxD as a member is a great way to grow your network, position your company to participate in new public-private projects, and improve the efficiency and safety of your manufacturing systems.

MxD has a wealth of resources and a valuable network that supports small and mid-sized manufacturers. Some of the company’s resources range from free webinars to members-only content as well as knowledge from different sectors that can help companies address problems.

And the good news is that annual rate for Tier 3 members is only $500. To inquire about joining MxD as a member, please reach out to: membership@mxdusa.org.

North Branch Works is proud to partner with MxD to attract manufacturers and grow manufacturing jobs. These positions are high-quality jobs that pay family-sustaining wages without requiring advanced degrees and ultimately support a more equitable Chicago region.

To see a dynamic video feature of MxD, please join us for North Branch Works’ Spring Fundraiser on May 20th.

North Branch Works would also like to recognize Bill Hurley from MxD for his dedicated service on our Board of Directors.

With questions and to connect with MxD, please email: info@mxdusa.org

Image credits: MxD

The Alley Chicago celebrates its 45th year anniversary in June

After developing an interest in business as a high school student at Holy Name Cathedral, Mark Thomas launched the Alley Chicago, an iconic family-owned business that served Lakeview for over forty years at Belmont Avenue and Clark Street.

Last year, the business moved to Avondale and is now located at 2620 W. Fletcher Street (pictured above). A retail and manufacturing operation, the Alley Chicago designs and sells counter-culture leather, footwear, jewelry, belt buckles, and t-shirts.

It’s well-known for its vast collection of Goth, Punk, Metal, Motorcycle, and Chicago merchandise. The business also carries a wide variety of products so it’s a great place to look for and purchase items—especially as we look for opportunities to support small businesses during the pandemic.

On June 6, 2021, the Alley Chicago will celebrate its 45th anniversary in business. Stay tuned for more details about how you can celebrate this remarkable achievement.

The Alley Chicago prides itself on being a safe and accepting environment for people of all backgrounds and lifestyle orientations. Recently, the business sponsored a transgender and gender fluid fashion show at Water Tower Place.

And while many of its customers experienced being judged by society for being different, they reported feeling welcomed, accepted, and valued at the Alley Chicago.

Over the course of its history, the business has employed 3,000 people in good jobs where they learned essential skills like how to manage the store, make purchasing decisions, and evaluate inventory. Encouraging entrepreneurship has always been an important goal of the owner, Mark Thomas.

Indeed, seeing about three hundred employees return to the business unexpectedly during a store closing in 2016 and learning many of them had started their own businesses is a development that Thomas considers to be one of his greatest achievements.

Currently, the business has a staff of ten people due to a major part of its business shifting to online sales.

In addition to serving as an attractive neighborhood destination, the business supports the artist community by providing approximately one hundred and twenty loft studio work spaces via its sister business, the Art Colony.

The Alley Chicago is currently open and following all of the COVID-19 protocols including mask-wearing, social distancing, and providing hand sanitizer.

North Branch Works members and supporters can help the Alley Chicago by visiting regularly. You can also pick up the latest merchandise from its online store.

Please follow the business on Twitter and Facebook.

We’re excited to work with the Alley Chicago and businesses in the thriving Belmont Avenue/Rockwell Street district to ensure the area remains a great place to work and do business.

North Branch Works is pleased to welcome the business as a new member. With questions and to connect with the Alley Chicago, please reach out to Mark Thomas, mark@thealley.com

Workforce training opportunity for manufacturers in North Branch South

Building the skills of your workforce is a great way to grow your business and position it for success as the pandemic winds down.

And if you are a manufacturer or manufacturing-related business in the North Branch South TIF District, here’s a great opportunity for you.

The City of Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development and the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center (IMEC) are offering expert-led virtual trainings at no cost to small manufacturers and manufacturing-related businesses with forty or less full-time employees.

Designed by IMEC experts, the available trainings cover a wide variety of topics, including safety, leadership, process improvements, maintenance fundamentals, and strategy in a post-COVID-19 market.

The goal of these sessions is to help manufacturers upskill and retool their workforce, improve productivity and safety practices, and understand when and how to shift business strategy.

The trainings range from eight to twenty-two hours; individual sessions generally last no more than two hours. Participants who complete the trainings will receive a certificate.

Please keep in mind the North Branch South TIF District is limited to twenty-eight participants for the fully-funded trainings. We recommend signing up sooner rather than later.

North Branch Works is proud to partner with IMEC and the Chicago Department of Planning and Development on this initiative and encourages our eligible member businesses to participate.

To learn more about the trainings and to register, please go here.

With questions about the program, please contact Michelle Fossett at IMEC, 815-275-0159, mfossett@imec.org.

Image credits: Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center

The Hideout poised for reopening

A family-owned business, beloved bar, and live music venue along the North Branch of the Chicago River, the Hideout has a long history of bringing people together as a community, serving as a launching pad for bands, and providing respite to industrial business workers.

Located at 1354 W. Wabansia Avenue (see below left), the Hideout is a two-story, balloon frame house that was built by immigrants during the 1860s—a time when industrial workers scraped together materials to build cottages around the Chicago River that supported the thriving steel mills.

From its birth, the Hideout has always been an instrumental part of the North Branch community. People come together at the Hideout and encourage each other to take chances and pursue their dreams—whether it be starting a band, organizing for a more equitable Chicago, or planning a campaign for alderman.

Some of the high-profile musicians who’ve played at the Hideout include Jeff Tweedy (Wilco), Jeff Glenn Kotche (Wilco), John Stirratt (Wilco and Autumn Defense), Mavis Staples (The Staples Singers), Jack White (White Stripes), and Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins).

In addition to being a popular neighborhood destination, the Hideout employs thirty-four people in high-quality jobs. Part-time staff earn good wages that provide them the flexibility to string together opportunities and succeed in today’s gig economy.

The current owners, Tim and Katie Tuten, along with running the Hideout, have played a major role in organizing efforts to improve the quality of life in Chicago. Katie spearheaded the creation of the Chicago Independent Venues League (CIVL), which came together to advocate for small venues to ensure they are recognized for their many contributions to Chicago’s music scene.

Today, CIVL represents over forty independent venues in the City of Chicago.

And during the COVID-19 pandemic, Katie had a prominent role in the #SaveOurStages campaign that pushed the federal government to provide financial assistance to small independent venues. In partnership with Congressman Mike Quigley, this effort scored a major victory in the American Rescue Plan Act, which created a federal grant opportunity for closed venues, the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant.

North Branch Works would also like to congratulate Katie Tuten on receiving the 2021 Nonprofit Board Member of the Year Award for her work with BandWith, a nonprofit that covers the costs of musical instruments and instruction for under-resourced schools on Chicago’s West Side.

The Hideout is a great example of how neighborhood businesses can thrive in partnership with industrial companies with informed land use planning, which is a top advocacy priority of North Branch Works.

Tim and Katie made the difficult decision to close the Hideout during the pandemic; the business has been shut down since March of 2020. However, we’re thrilled the Hideout is on track to open for outdoor music on its front porch during the summer and has a tentative plan to welcome people indoors in the fall.

North Branch Works members and supporters can help the Hideout by visiting regularly when it opens. In the meantime, please purchase tickets to its incredible virtual events. You can also pick up the latest merchandise from the Hideout’s online store.

North Branch Works is grateful to count the Hideout as a longtime member and to Tim and Katie Tuten for their service on our Board of Directors.

If you’d like to connect with the Hideout, please call 773-227-4433.

Image credits: The Hideout

Sign up for North Branch Works’ Spring Fundraiser on May 20th

Here’s your chance to support neighborhood businesses, high-quality jobs, and the North Branch of the Chicago River as a great place to work and do business.

Please register for our virtual Spring Fundraiser on May 20th at 6:30 p.m. Our entertaining, one-hour program on Zoom will feature dynamic local businesses including:

  • MxD, a woman-led, membership-based manufacturing institute on Goose Island that does incredible work building the capacity and security of American manufacturers.
  • Essanay Studio and Lighting, a company that helps clients shoot high-quality commercials and movies by supplying world-class studios and equipment.
  • A live interview with Anne Bigane Wilson, President of Bigane Paving.
  • Calihan Catering, a family-owned multi-generational catering and events business on Goose Island.

And we’ll learn about current projects and future plans for the area from Ald. Walter Burnett (27th Ward) and Ald. Michele Smith (43rd Ward).

Along the way, we’ll enjoy a beer tasting with Revolution Brewing’s Josh Deth as well as snacks from Calihan Catering.*

Our Spring Fundraiser will be an hour of fun and entertainment. We hope you can join us. Thank you for supporting businesses, high-quality jobs, and sustainable economic development in Chicago.

The suggested minimum donation is $25. To purchase a ticket, please go here.

* If you live in the Chicago region, our staff will deliver beer and snacks to you in advance of the event.

With questions, please contact Steve Simmons, 773-929-5552 x2226, steve@northbranchworks.org