The City of Chicago’s Small Business Improvement Fund (SBIF) is one of the best economic development programs we can use to strengthen neighborhood businesses.
SBIF provides reimbursable grants to companies for permanent building improvements. Commercial businesses are eligible for grants up to $150,000 while industrial firms can receive a maximum of $250,000 with 50% project match.
In June of 2021, SBIF was open in the Western Avenue South Tax Increment Financing District in North Center. NBW staff was thrilled to inform Lucas Tire & Autocare (3501 N. Western Avenue) about SBIF and help the business owner, Rich Lucas, apply for a grant.
A family-owned business, Lucas Tire & Autocare has operated for over forty years at its location on Western Avenue in the 32nd Ward directly across from Lane Tech High School.
A full-service auto repair shop, the business has become a neighborhood destination and well-known for its honesty, high-quality repairs, and reasonable prices. Along with providing a valuable service, the company employs a workforce of seven people in high-quality jobs.
The SBIF project made four major upgrades to the business:
Over the next twenty-four months, our staff partnered closely with Rich Lucas on his project. We helped the business obtain an extension when it unexpectedly ran into an issue with its initial general contractor.
We also worked together on obtaining the necessary paperwork and submitted it to SomerCor, the SBIF program administrator. Before a project can begin, the city must review it and issue a conditional approval letter.
After securing this letter, Lucas hired Interstate Mechanical and Construction Company to complete his project.
As a member of North Branch Works, Lucas applied to our low-interest Small Business Loan Program and obtained a loan for his project, meeting the City of Chicago’s requirement that businesses secure upfront financing for their projects.
To process the loan, we helped the business strengthen its by-laws and obtain its certificate of good standing.
His project started in May; Interstate Mechanical & Construction Company completed it by early June. After SBIF projects are completed, the City of Chicago pays the SBIF grant within four to six weeks.
Our partnership with Lucas Tire and Autocare is an excellent example of the way that our staff can help small businesses navigate a program like SBIF and experience the benefits.
We’d like to congratulate Rich Lucas for completing his SBIF project and thank LaTonya Jones at SomerCor for her guidance and support.
Stay tuned to our website, social media, and e-newsletter for opportunities to apply to SBIF in 2024.