Tag: Economic development

Howe Corporation preserving our food supply chain

Seeing a need for innovation in the refrigeration industry, William Henry Howe founded Howe Corporation in Chicago in 1912, designing equipment that popularized the use of “artificial ice.”

Today, Howe Corporation is a fourth generation, woman-owned business that manufactures and sells refrigeration equipment at its facility located at 1650 N. Elston Avenue. The company produces approximately 1,000 units in a typical year; they range in daily ice production from 1,000 to 20,000 lbs.

Along with being highly productive, these machines are environmentally sustainable, a core value of Howe Corporation. With proper maintenance, the company’s ice flaker machines (see below right) can last over 10 years in the retail supermarket and over 20 years in the industrial food processing market.

Energy Star recognized Howe Corporation’s commitment to the environment, presenting the company with a 2019 Excellence in Design Award and Partner of the Year Award for 2020 & 2021. Many of the company’s ice flaker machines have been Energy Star certified.

It’s ideal to use flake ice to preserve food because it has the most surface area contact of any form of ice and provides the greatest cooling capacity. Flake ice easily molds around the product to cool even more efficiently.

Customers use #HoweIce to preserve food along every step in the supply chain from field to table and sea to plate. And having a safe and reliable food supply chain has been incredibly important during the pandemic.

Howe Corporation prides itself on providing high quality customer service and has built many long-term relationships with clients, some of whom have been customers for over thirty years. With export offices in Costa Rica and Mexico, the company is well-known in Latin America.

Some of Howe Corporation’s high-profile clients include Whole Foods, Panera Bread, Wegmans, Concool, and the Seattle Fish Company. And you can find Howe’s machines in over fifty of the top one-hundred supermarket chains in the U.S. and over 100 countries globally.

The company’s product line includes ice flaker machines, condensing units, ice storage bins, filtration systems and accessories. Howe Corporation is a great example of how manufacturing continues to thrive in Chicago and has pivoted from large companies to mid-size and smaller firms.

Currently, Howe Corporation employs a workforce of thirty people in high quality jobs–many of which do not require an advanced degree. And by participating in the City of Chicago’s TIF 50/50 pilot program last year, Howe Corporation was able to hire during the pandemic as well as upgrade the skills of its incumbent workers.

The company’s strong commitment to the Chicago region is reflected in its support of area organizations. In addition to being a member of North Branch Works, the President of Howe Corporation serves as the Board Chair for Jane Adams Resource Corporation (JARC), a provider of high-quality skills training and support services to low-income and unemployed Chicagoans.

Howe Corporation is WBE certified and obtained its Women-Owned Small Business certification (WOSB) from the federal government. This designation will help the company continue to break down barriers within the refrigeration and cooling industry, apply for federal contracts, and connect with other businesses seeking to diversify their supply chains.

Please support Howe Corporation by following and liking the company on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.

To connect with Howe Corporation, please reach out to: howeinfo@howecorp.com

Image credits: Howe Corporation

Bigane Paving connects the Chicago region

Since 1985, Anne Bigane Wilson has led Bigane Paving, a fourth generation-owned asphalt company, turning it into a major asset in the Chicago region.

Founded in 1907 by John Bigane, the business initially started as a retail coal and oil supplier. In the late 1950’s, the company added asphalt to balance out the seasonal nature of fuel delivery; over time, the demand for asphalt grew and became the company’s primary product offering.

Today, Bigane Paving serves the Chicago region through its high-quality work on infrastructure improvements, streetscapes, and street and parking lot resurfacing and replacement projects.

The company’s central location (935 W. Chestnut Street) just west of Goose Island among similar land uses provides it with safe and easy access to the city and suburbs. It’s a great example of a thriving industrial company whose future North Branch Works is working hard to protect through our advocacy and by monitoring zoning changes.

In addition to providing valuable services, the company employs approximately twenty people in permanent high-quality jobs and its seasonal staff can reach close to 100 at its peak.

Most of the firm’s business comes from winning city and state project contracts. Remarkably, the company has paved 1,500 miles of streets.

Some of Bigane Paving’s high-profile projects include paving the 606/Bloomingdale Trail as well as bike lanes in the City of Chicago’s Streets for Cycling 2020 Plan and resurfacing the North Avenue Bridge

In 2018, Bigane Paving won the Chicago Department of Transportation’s Contractor of the Year Award for resurfacing North and Southbound Lake Shore Drive between Grand Avenue and Monroe Drive.

Although most of its work comes from public contracts, the business also excels in working with the private sector, having completed successful projects with many religious and scholastic institutions.

And much of the firm’s success is due to the innovation of its leader, Anne Bigane Wilson. A major success during her tenure was the purchase of Ogden Avenue Materials, a manufacturing operation, that allowed the company to expand and serve the entire Chicago region.

Within the industry, Anne is well-known for her ability to work well with the many diverse stakeholders who play important roles in construction projects. Her customers praise her for her detailed approach that consistently delivers projects on time and budget.

During Women’s History Month, North Branch Works is celebrating our women-owned business members. We’re honored to recognize Anne Bigane Wilson for the many contributions she’s made to Bigane Paving, North Branch Works, and Chicagoland.

If you’d like to connect with Bigane Paving, please reach out to info@biganepaving.com

Image credits: Bigane Paving

Celebrating Women’s History Month with KOVAL Distillery

Following successful academic careers, Dr. Sonat Birnecker Hart and her husband, Dr. Robert Birnecker, decided to bring the distilling traditions of Robert’s Austrian family to the U.S., taking them on a journey that resulted in the founding of KOVAL Distillery in 2008.

Today, KOVAL Distillery produces organic whiskey, liquors, and specialty spirits from scratch. The company partners with local organic farmers who grow and send grains to KOVAL which manufactures its products on-site in Ravenswood (4241 N. Ravenswood Avenue). KOVAL also recently moved its store within the distillery at this location.

It’s a great example of how manufacturing has shifted from large companies to smaller neighborhood artisanal businesses that provide high-quality jobs without requiring advanced degrees.

KOVAL only uses the “heart cut” of the distillate, making its products stand out due to their clean taste; they’re also organic and kosher. For example, the company uses 100% Midwestern grown organic rye to make its rye whiskey whereas other brands only use the minimum 51% rye blend.

Take a look inside KOVAL by watching this video, From Grain to Bottle.

Some of the places where you can find KOVAL products include: Whole Foods, Target, Binny’s, Beer Temple, Cellar Door Provisions, and many neighborhood liquor stores.

At the time of its founding, KOVAL Distillery faced many challenges including high start-up costs for equipment such as copper stills and 30-gallon drums, securing affordable real estate that could accommodate its needs, and outdated laws governing distilleries that prevented the business from setting up a tasting room, selling retail on-site, and hosting tours.

Fortunately, Dr. Sonat Birnecker Hart (pictured above right) has always been a strong policy advocate. Shortly after launching KOVAL, she organized meetings with her alderman and Members of the Illinois General Assembly, resulting in the creation of a Craft Distiller’s license in the State of Illinois. Her persistent advocacy elevated the craft distilling industry in Illinois and made it possible for distilleries to compete fairly with wineries and breweries.

Another way that KOVAL overcame high startup costs was by responding to strong community interest in distilling.  After word spread about the company starting, KOVAL received numerous calls from people wanting to know more about the company, the type of equipment that distilling requires, and general tips for distilling.

Because KOVAL was already the manufacturers’ representative of equipment firms in Germany and other parts of Europe, the company decided to offer workshops and consulting services to the public. Remarkably, KOVAL has helped start 200 distilleries in Canada and the U.S. and educated over 3500 people about spirits.

North Branch Works members and supporters can help KOVAL by purchasing its products, which are available online, and suggesting that venues carry them if they don’t already.

And please visit KOVAL’s bar and patio when it opens after the pandemic winds down. Stay tuned for an opening announcement.

We’re proud to count KOVAL Distillery as a member and especially grateful to Dr. Sonat Birnecker Hart for her service on North Branch Works’ Board of Directors.

To connect with KOVAL Distillery, please reach out to: info@koval-distillery.com.

Image credits: KOVAL Distillery

Essanay Studio & Lighting celebrates 25 years on Goose Island

A fixture on Chicago’s Goose Island, Essanay Studio and Lighting helps clients shoot dynamic commercials, TV shows, and movies by supplying world-class studios and equipment.

Founded in 1919, the business occupied several locations in Chicago, including the famous Essanay Film Manufacturing Company stage, before moving to Goose Island in 1996.

Today, Essanay Studio and Lighting rents sound studios and equipment for stage shoots as well as location production such as lights, stands, camera dollies, grip trucks and generators to various production companies.

Some of the company’s high-profile clients include McDonald’s, Apple, General Motors, State Farm and Winnebago. Essanay also provided the equipment and behind-the-scenes expertise for the Showtime hit series, Shameless, and Meet the Maddons, a promotional Winnebago ad series featuring former Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon.

The company’s Goose Island facility (1346 N North Branch) is a great example of adaptive reuse; Essanay converted a former food production company building and additional new construction into a space featuring two sound stages, dressing rooms, production areas and an equipment storage building.

One of the best parts of Essanay’s work is the variety that comes with each job. Every client has different equipment and preparation needs. For example, commercials may require one-to-two weeks to identify props and a shooting location whereas movies can, in general, take three-to-four weeks to do similar preparation before filming.

Along with making major contributions to Chicago as a business and employer, one of Essanay’s partners, Wayne Kubacki–who recently retired–was a founding member of The Illinois Production Alliance (IPA). The IPA was specifically formed with the goal of fighting for policies that made Illinois an attractive place to do filmmaking.

The IPA’s advocacy resulted in the passage of the Illinois Film Tax Credit, an incredible win because production companies often locate their productions wherever they can take advantage of the best tax credits.

Essanay moved to Goose Island due to its central location in Chicago and the property being located in a Planned Manufacturing District, knowing that it would be surrounded by compatible land uses and ensuring that Essanay could deliver to its clients spaces that can be used as intended. This includes recording sound for motion pictures; Essanay’s success depends on its ability to provide these spaces without nearby conflicting land uses.

North Branch Works is proud to have Essanay Studio & Lighting as a member and congratulate the business on its twenty-fifth-year anniversary on Goose Island.

To connect with Essanay Studio & Lighting, please reach out to: info@essanay.com

Image credits: Essanay Studio & Lighting Company

Property zoned manufacturing holds great value

As an advocate for high-quality jobs and manufacturing, North Branch Works frequently reviews and weighs in on zoning change proposals in the eight wards that make up our service area.

Recently, we’ve seen an increase in requests to change properties zoned manufacturing to allow for other uses, including residential. And that’s problematic because the purpose of Chicago’s zoning code is to keep compatible land uses together.

As a general practice, North Branch Works supports maintaining properties zoned manufacturing so there are opportunities to attract new companies with jobs that pay family-sustaining wages without requiring advanced degrees.

Using land for manufacturing is community-friendly and creates many benefits including strengthening economic development, increasing revenue for the City of Chicago, and providing high-quality jobs that support equitable and diverse neighborhoods.

Our member businesses have worked hard for many years to create thriving business districts throughout our service area such as Rockwell Street south of Belmont Avenue and on Goose Island. It’s dangerous to entertain changing zoning when it would break up a block of properties zoned for manufacturing and open the door for more proposals that would further mix land uses.

And we know that once manufacturing leaves an area, it’s nearly impossible to bring it back. That’s a major reason Planned Manufacturing Districts (PMDs) were created throughout Chicago. PMDs are designated areas where zoning laws prohibit residential development and other specific uses; they provide safe spaces for businesses to operate without nearby conflicting land uses.

In cases where property owners are struggling to attract a business, North Branch Works sees it as our mission to work with owners and Members of City Council to recruit a company that complies with the current zoning.

And we’re excited to join the Chicagoland Manufacturing Renaissance Council and its members to promote and protect manufacturing businesses and jobs.

In short, we see properties zoned manufacturing as presenting valuable opportunities to attract new businesses with high-quality neighborhood jobs and strengthen economic development.

With questions/comments about zoning and/or for help with business attraction, please contact Steve Simmons, 773-929-5552 x2226, steve@northbranchworks.org

Image credit: Chicagoland Manufacturing Renaissance Council

Watch the State of Development along the North Branch

On February 18th, North Branch Works brought together developers and real estate brokers for a roundtable discussion about the future of development in our service area along the North Branch.

If you missed the State of Development along the North Branch, you can watch it here. And the power point presentation can be viewed here.

Infrastructure and transportation upgrades for new and existing businesses and the need to support the existing mixed-use environment emerged as major themes during the panel discussion.

Several specific infrastructure projects were discussed including the coming reconstruction of the Division Street Bridge, reinstating CTA Bus service on Elston and Clybourn Avenues, and plans to build a transitway connecting the Central Business District and the North Branch.

Panelists also emphasized the importance of the area continuing to attract new businesses while supporting existing ones to sustain the area as a great place to work and do business.

North Branch Works will continue to fight for our member businesses including industrial businesses, provide timely updates about the development projects featured in the webinar, and push for these crucial infrastructure upgrades.

If you haven’t already, it’s a great time to join North Branch Works as a member. We’ll connect you to grants, information about low-interest business loans, and companies in our network for business-to-business opportunities.

We can also provide customized support for businesses and nonprofits.

To join and with questions, please contact Steve Simmons, Director of Business and Economic Development, 773-929-5552 x2226, steve@northbranchworks.org

Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago preparing future workforce

For over a hundred years, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago (BGCC) have provided dynamic programing to young people, helping them to reach their full potential as productive, caring, and responsible citizens.

One of the BGCC’s most effective initiatives is the Great Opportunities (GO) Program. It’s a six-week, subsidized workforce development program for youth between the ages of 16-24 that includes support services such as transportation, uniforms, work shoes, and health and drug screenings.

The GO Program connects youth with internships at companies so they can job shadow, gain valuable hands-on experience, and explore a variety of career paths. BGCC staff prepare and match youth with opportunities before asking the employer partner to interview them.

As a new member of North Branch Works, the BGCC seeks to form partnerships with member businesses, especially industrial companies, that can expose youth to high-quality jobs that pay family-sustaining wages without requiring advanced degrees.

Bringing a youth into your company is a great way to promote careers and your business, invest in Chicago’s future workforce, and ultimately, advance equitable neighborhoods.

And if your business hires a participant, you may be eligible for on-the-job training, which covers 50% of the youth’s wages if he or she is employed for at least six months.

We’re fortunate to have three Boys and Girls Clubs doing incredible work in our service area, including the Linda and Bill Gantz Club (2915 N. Leavitt Street) at Lathrop Homes led by Club Director Marco De La Rosa (pictured above).

The Linda and Bill Gantz Club regularly hosts community events that support children and families in our service area such as a Back-to-School Backpack Drive, a Thanksgiving Meal Drive with the Chicago Bears (see right), and a holiday gift exchange (see bottom left).

The BGCC welcomes the support and participation of NBW members and supporters in these events.

During the pandemic, the BGCC has pivoted to offering a combination of virtual and in-person opportunities that follow COVID-19 protocols such as requiring masks, social distancing, and cleaning surfaces regularly.

As a result, children without access to computers or experiencing difficulty with online learning can connect with a mentor and continue their education.

Another way you can support the BGCC is by joining its Club Champion Monthly Giving Program, which has donation options at $25, $35, $50, and $100.

North Branch Works is thrilled to welcome the BGCC as a new member. We’re excited about the GO Program and the opportunities it offers to promote jobs and companies in our service area.

With questions and to connect with the BGCC, please email: info@bgcc.org

If you work for a company and would like to participate as an employer partner in the GO Program, please contact Fannieleah Brown, Project Director, 312-226-2323, fbrown@bgcc.org

Image credit (top): Anne Evans, Active Transportation Alliance

Image credit (body): Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago 

Vision One Agency helps businesses & nonprofits tell unforgettable stories

After attending film school at Columbia College Chicago, Will Sullivan (pictured above middle) spent seven years working in various video ad productions, developing incredible marketing and communications skills in the process.

Now, as the owner and co-founder of Vision One Agency, he applies his passion for filmmaking by helping businesses and nonprofits elevate their brands through powerful storytelling.

Founded in March of 2020, Vision One Agency is a creative video agency that serves a wide range of clients in key markets of Chicago, Denver, and Los Angeles. The company specializes in commercials, documentaries, social videos, stop motion animation, and short films.

The business overcame the challenges of opening right at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic by stringing together a series of small projects designed to help restaurants and neighborhood businesses.

Regardless of where you find yourself in the creative process, Vision One Agency will tailor its approach to meet your needs. Indeed, the business prides itself on being able to help clients come up with innovative ideas and carry them through every stage of the production process with careful attention to details.

Vision One Agency’s dedicated and talented staff has expertise in video production, writing, editing, acting, and animation. Based in Bucktown, Will and his team are invested in the success of Chicago’s small and industrial businesses, nonprofits, and neighborhoods.

Some of Vision One Agency’s recent clients include Cresco Labs, Waterton Real Estate, Remy Martin, Coda di Volpe, and North Branch Works (to name a few).

It’s a great time to partner with Vision One Agency given the importance of hosting virtual events, they can assist in producing great storytelling content for your live streams, web, and social.

In fact, North Branch Works hired the company to produce video features of our members for our first-ever Fall Fundraiser.

Please see these incredible video features of North Branch Works and our members: Metropolitan Brewing, mHub Chicago, and Guild Row.

In our case, we had a talented interviewer and three member businesses lined up; Vision One Agency helped us with the production and editing of these videos as well as thinking through our virtual program.

North Branch Works is thrilled to welcome Vision One Agency as one of our newest member businesses. The company is the only video production agency in our network; we highly recommend working with Will and his team.

Vision One Agency would love to network with and support its fellow North Branch Works member businesses and nonprofits. The business is open to working with organizations that have limited budgets.

To see its latest projects, please follow the company on Instagram and Facebook.

To connect with Vision One Agency, please reach out to Will Sullivan, Co-Founder, 312-566-8534, will@v1a.co.

Image credits: Vision One Agency

SYNLawn of Chicago joins North Branch Works

For over ten years, SYNLawn of Chicago has improved quality of life by supplying and installing a variety of high-quality products such as synthetic turf, green walls, rubber surfacing, and sports tiles.

An affiliate of AstroTurf, the company launched in 2010 due to the emergence of a commercial and residential market for artificial turf. We’re fortunate to have this neighborhood business in the North Branch as it is the licensed distributor of SYNLawn products to Illinois.

Located at 2632 W. Barry Avenue (pictured above), SYNLawn has twenty-five synthetic grass products in its showroom that can solve many challenging livability issues. And if you visit in person, you can rest assured the company is following strict COVID-19 protocols such as requiring face masks and social distancing.

Installing synthetic grass in your home or office creates many benefits including reduced energy costs as well as saving time and energy on lawn maintenance.

SYNLawn’s talented and experienced staff can help you design and carry out improvement projects such as roof-decks, dog parks, landscaping, and putting greens. Along with improving quality of life at home and/or for your employees, investing in amenities like roof-decks increases property values.

To help people enjoy the many health benefits of living in green spaces, the company sells artificial green walls (pictured below), which are designed for people who desire this experience and might not be able to invest the time and energy into maintaining a natural one. Many of SYNLawn’s green walls appear in offices and hospitality businesses throughout Chicago.

SYNLawn also offers rubber surfacing products that minimize injuries from falls and accidents. This product line is ideal for playgrounds, athletic arenas, courts, and city parks.

And thanks to its production of sports tiles, the business can design and build projects such as indoor and outdoor basketball courts. Each tile is slip-proof, tailored to fit the exact space, and tough enough to survive the most extreme weather conditions.

SYNLawn cares deeply about Chicago neighborhoods and its fellow small businesses in the North Branch. During the pandemic last summer, the company partnered with local restaurants, helping them get through the worst of it by creating attractive green spaces for outdoor dining.

North Branch Works is proud to welcome SYNLawn of Chicago as one of our newest members. The company’s entire product line is manufactured in the United States; working with SYNLawn is a great way to support manufacturing and living-wage employment.

Currently, SYNLawn is offering free project estimates and would love to network with fellow North Branch Works members. And if you are a member, the company will provide you with discounted pricing.

To connect with SYNLawn, please contact Leo Alunan, Sales and Operations Manager, 773-857-5296 (Ext. 651), lalunan@synlawn.com

To request a free estimate, please go here.

Image credits: SYNLawn of Chicago

Join us for the State of Development along the North Branch on Feb. 18

With several major developments in various stages of completion, there’s no doubt the North Branch will continue to grow and evolve as a place to work and do business in the coming years.

We’ve organized a virtual panel discussion with developers who will share the latest updates on their projects to keep our member businesses, supporters, and neighborhood stakeholders informed.

We hope you’ll join us for The State of Development along the North Branch on Feb. 18 from 10-11:30 a.m. This zoom webinar will feature (pictured below from left) Lincoln Yards, the Salt District, Lathrop, Rockwell on the River, and 1308 N. Elston Avenue.

To register at no cost, please go here.

Speakers:

  • Fred Krol, Senior Counsel, Director of Government and Community Relations, Sterling Bay
  • Zack Cupkovic, Investments & Special Projects, R2 Companies
  • Sarah Wick, Vice President, Related Midwest
  • Paul Levy, Rockwell on the River
  • Ari Topper, Managing Director, Baum Realty Group

Moderator:

  • Jonathan Snyder, Executive Director, North Branch Works

               

Learn more about where these projects currently stand and take advantage of the opportunity to ask questions following the panel discussion.

If you have any questions, please contact Steve Simmons, Director of Business and Economic Development, 773-929-5552 x2226, steve@northbranchworks.org