Tag: Jobs

City economic development programs return great value

As the City of Chicago begins to develop its budget for next year, it’s important to keep in mind that economic development programs for neighborhood businesses have never been more valuable.

Because the pandemic and recent social unrest have affected businesses in numerous ways, organizations like North Branch Works require flexibility to meet ever-changing business needs.

Every day, we provide a variety of crucial support services to businesses as a delegate city agency through two programs: the Neighborhood Business Development Center (NBDC), funded by the Chicago Department of Business and Consumer Protection, and the Local Industrial Retention Initiative (LIRI), funded by the Chicago Department of Planning and Development.

And to give you an idea of our annual impact, we consult with over 108 business through LIRI and over 72 new businesses through NBDC. Our program area includes all or parts of the following city wards: 2, 27, 32, 33, 35, 42, 43, 44, and 47.

Our NBDC services include helping new businesses navigate the city’s licensing process, transition from startups into mature and growing businesses, and access financial resources such as grants and low-interest loans.

Recently, North Branch Works promoted grants available through Chicago’s Together Now Fund and the State of Illinois’ Business Interruption Grant (BIG) program. As a result, one of our member businesses secured a $20k grant to help cover the costs of having to suspend operations during the pandemic.

Our NBDC work also allows us to build strong relationships with businesses and identify candidates for our low-interest small business loan program, which is another resource that can be leveraged for business growth.

And through LIRI, we advocate for and support larger industrial businesses. Retaining industrial jobs is crucial because they pay family-sustaining wages and require middle skills—often only two years beyond high school.

As a central part of LIRI, North Branch Works regularly convenes Infrastructure Task Force meetings to identify and push for business-friendly improvements to the built environment.

Some of our recent wins include the installation of a new stop sign on Goose Island, providing up to date information about the upcoming Division Street Bridge project as well as the update to the Halsted Triangle Plan, and participating in the Lincoln Yards Community Advisory Council.

The LIRI program also allows us to connect businesses directly to valuable city programs such as the Small Business Improvement Fund (SBIF), TIFWorks, and TIF 50/50. These programs can cover all or some of the costs of building upgrades for your business and training your workforce.

North Branch Works urges Mayor Lightfoot and City Council Members to commit to increasing funding for these essential neighborhood economic development programs in the 2021 budget.

These economic development programs support our vision of a thriving business sector along the North Branch that would bring many benefits to Chicago including family-sustaining jobs, increased revenues to the city, and a strong and healthy consumer base.

If you are a business and would like to explore how our services could benefit you, please contact Steve Simmons, Director of Business and Economic Development, 773-929-5552 x2226, steve@northbranchworks.org

Small Accessible Repairs for Seniors program strengthens communities

Being able to live comfortably at home has never been more important. And for this reason, we’re grateful to operate the Small Accessible Repairs for Seniors (SARFS) program, which allows us to make upgrades to help residents enjoy a high quality of life.

Funded by the Chicago Department of Housing, SARFS is a free program for eligible seniors. To qualify for SARFS, you must be at least 60 years old and meet the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development’s income requirement, which is an annual income that’s not higher than $58,250 for two-people.

And you can participate in the program if you are a homeowner or renter, living in a single-family home or multi-family buildings with one-to-four units.

SARFS covers the cost of repairing and installing safety equipment, security improvements, and other items that make it easier to live at home. We can fix and/or install fire extinguishers as well as smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

And we can make improvements to floors, steps, and doors. The program also pays for the cost of accessibility upgrades such as grab bars, transfer benches, tub-assist bars, chair-height toilets, faucets, handrails and handheld showers.

North Branch Works is one of several city delegate agencies that offer the program. We can work with you if you live in one of the following city wards: 1, 2, 24, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 35, and 37.

If you happen to live outside these wards, please call us anyway as we’re happy to connect you with the agency in your neighborhood.

In fact, we often make referrals to the Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County (CEDA), 311, and the City of Chicago’s Roof and Porch Programs.

Our dedicated program manager, Misty LeBlanc (pictured below), walks seniors through the eligibility process from the initial phone call, meets them in their homes for consultations, and does well-being checks during extreme temperatures.

When you come into our program, you gain the many benefits of a community that cares deeply about you.

Recently, our field manager, Reggie Hamilton (pictured below right), was in East Garfield Park, wrapping up a job that included multiple repairs such as replacing drywall and rebuilding an external door frame.

Because we’re fortunate to have a carpenter on our staff, we can complete jobs quickly after receiving approval from the city.

Prior to the pandemic, North Branch Works regularly completed jobs on thirty-three homes annually per our city contract.

Despite COVID-19, we have been working hard to finish as many jobs as possible because we know they make a major contribution to quality of life; we’re on track to complete twenty-homes this year.

North Branch Works is proud to be completing our tenth year of running the SARFS program. And we’d love to increase the number of jobs we can complete due to high demand in our neighborhoods.

Toward that end, we’re actively looking for funding to expand the program.

With inquiries/questions about SARFS, please contact Misty LeBlanc, Program Manager, misty@northbranchworks.org, 773-929-5552 x2235.

Rockwell on the River, an incredible destination along Chicago River

Summer is not over yet; you can have plenty of socially-distant fun on the cobblestone streets at Rockwell on the River, a dynamic craft food and events space in Avondale along the North Branch of the Chicago River.

Located at 3057 N. Rockwell St. in between Elston and Belmont Avenues, the company began seven years ago when developer Paul Levy repurposed industrial buildings from what had been a tannery.

Reflecting his vision of an artisanal food space like no other in the city, the complex has a diverse and growing mix of local and family-owned small businesses including Metropolitan Brewing’s taproom and brewery, Metropolis Coffee, and Judson and Moore Distillery.

The company’s long-term goal is to be known as a destination for the best food Chicago has to offer and an asset to the Avondale neighborhood.

And Rockwell on the River expects to add several new food-based businesses to its lineup soon. If you happen to be in the food industry, the complex offers customized kitchen spaces available for rent and often hosts pop-up cafes.

Currently, Catered by Design offers a pop up café on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. And please take advantage of the company’s two-for-one sandwich deal, using this QVR code.

After stopping by food vendors, you can take in the scenic Chicago River and see nature up close by renting kayaks from Wateriders Kayak Rentals and boats from Chicago Electric Boats—both companies operate from the complex’s dock behind the buildings.

And eventually the plan is to add a Chicago Water Taxi stop operated by Wendella to the Rockwell dock.

Because this stretch of the Chicago River is used primarily for recreation, it’s a great place to escape from the grid and enjoy the natural world, including blue herons, which were spotted in the area recently.

And if you visit, you can rest assured knowing all the businesses at Rockwell on the River follow strict COVID-19 protocols, including requiring social distancing and face masks, and cleaning surfaces regularly.

Along with providing space for food businesses to succeed, Rockwell on the River has a breathtaking 20,000 sq. foot event space overlooking the river (see below right) that can be rented for weddings, corporate gatherings, and galas.

The grounds also feature beautiful offices that can accommodate firms of all sizes. Available offices range in space from hundreds to thousands of square feet.

North Branch Works is proud to welcome Rockwell on the River as our newest member. We’re grateful our members on Rockwell Street can safely operate and excited about partnering with them to strengthen existing businesses, attract new ones, and bring family-sustaining jobs to the neighborhood.

If you’d like to rent space or connect with Rockwell on the River, please contact Jeff DeLong, Director of Marketing & Programming, 312-498-6382, jdelong@bridgeportart.com

Image credits: Rockwell on the River

City should evaluate bars and taprooms based on compliance

Citing an increase in positive coronavirus cases, Mayor Lightfoot recently decided to eliminate indoor service at bars and taprooms operating without a food license.

While we appreciate Mayor Lightfoot’s data-driven leadership during the pandemic, North Branch Works sees this decision as a one-size-fits-all policy approach that unfairly groups all bars and taprooms in the same category.

Instead, we urge Mayor Lightfoot to make compliance with COVID-19 regulations the deciding factor in whether or not bars and taprooms can offer indoor service.

Because of our strong relationships with bars and taprooms in our service area, we know they are highly committed to the health, safety, and welfare of their employees and patrons. And just as important, they have the capacity to carry out these services in a safe and responsible manner.

North Branch Works’ letter to Mayor Lightfoot highlights these and other points.

Chicago remains a vibrant city in large part because of our diverse range of small businesses like neighborhood taverns and bars. Not only do these establishments strengthen communities through jobs and economic development, they also make important cultural contributions.

There’s no question that positive cases are increasing in certain zip codes. But it’s difficult to understand the rationale for closing all bars and taprooms across the city during a time when there’s overwhelming demand for jobs and economic development.

And we see establishments without food licenses as opportunities to encourage creative entrepreneurship with food-based businesses. For example, many small family-owned businesses like Calihan Catering are facing unprecedented challenges, so we could advance polices that foster partnerships between businesses with mutual needs.

And that’s exactly the type of partnership that we’re working hard to build along the North Branch by advancing policies that make it a premier area to do business and work, connecting members with each other, and sustaining new businesses.

North Branch Works stands ready to support Mayor Lightfoot and Members of City Council as we work toward a safe and healthy economic recovery.

Victory for bars and taprooms

In a major win for bars and taprooms, Mayor Lori Lightfoot allowed establishments that serve alcohol only to re-open on June 17. Prior to this time, these businesses were unable to re-open under the City of Chicago’s Phase Three Reopening Plan.

North Branch Works and our members successfully advocated for this policy change, pointing out that Chicago is home to more breweries than any other city in the country and highlighting the many ways they support the local economy, jobs, and vibrancy of our neighborhoods.

We also had confidence that bars and taprooms with a track record of success could easily comply with COVID-19 guidelines such as social distancing, limiting the number of seated patrons, and providing laminated menus.

North Branch Works’ letter to Mayor Lightfoot highlights these and other important points.

We applaud Mayor Lightfoot’s decision to allow taprooms and breweries to re-open and are committed to working with establishments who prioritize the health and safety of their patrons.

This policy win is a great reminder that persistent advocacy yields results. And it also demonstrates the type of advocacy we can do with elected officials to support you and your business.

We recognize that running a small business in the best of times comes with many challenges, including often a limited-capacity to influence the business climate around you.

If you can, please consider joining North Branch Works as a dues-paying member. And please let us know if there are any policy changes that we can advance that can help you achieve success.

With questions/comments, please contact Steve Simmons, Director of Business and Economic Development, at 773-929-5552 x2226, steve@northbranchworks.org.

Image credit: Maplewood Brewery and Distillery

Community council advising Sterling Bay & city on Lincoln Yards

North Branch Works (NBW) is honored to have been selected as a community representative for the Lincoln Yards Community Advisory Council (LYCAC), which held its first meeting on June 15.

Lincoln Yards is a 55-acre, mixed-use development project (pictured) along the North Branch of the Chicago River that will run between North and Webster Avenues and across parts of Bucktown and Lincoln Park.

The purpose of LYCAC is to engage with the City of Chicago and Sterling Bay, the developer of Lincoln Yards, on a regular and consistent basis to review project status, including infrastructure design and serve as a community conduit for project concerns. The 14-member council includes four members from the 2nd Ward Zoning Board, three Lincoln Park/Bucktown community members, and subject matter experts in infrastructure, housing, planning, economic development, minority and women business enterprise participation, Tax Increment Financing, open space and the environment.

The meeting enabled council members to meet with each other and become acquainted with the developers and city officials who brought the project forward after approval of the North Branch Framework Plan. After presentations from Sterling Bay and the City of Chicago, members were able to ask questions and talk about their concerns which stimulated a productive dialogue.

Going forward, the council will meet quarterly with city officials and Sterling Bay to advise on various aspects of the project such as transportation, land use, open space, and business recruitment. Throughout the three-year commitment to participate on the council, NBW will advocate for the creation of living-wage job opportunities, especially opportunities that do not require an advanced degree. In order to make job opportunities accessible to all Chicagoans, NBW will push for investments in public transit options that help people get to places of employment safely and easily. These investments are critical to ensure traffic congestion does not increase with new development.

Although Lincoln Yards was approved as a Planned Development and TIF District in 2019, the role of LYCAC will be to advise Sterling Bay and the city on ways it can implement a project that’s mindful of adjacent communities and addresses community concerns. NBW appreciates the responsibility it has to ensure this project strengthens residential communities, supports business opportunities and entrepreneurship, and creates jobs accessible to people throughout Chicago.

Do you have ideas and/or concerns about Lincoln Yards that you’d like advisory council to address? Please contact Jonathan Snyder, Executive Director, at 773-929-5552, jonathan@northbranchworks.org

Image credits: Sterling Bay