Tag: Jobs

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.


  • 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


  • 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

Salt District to add jobs & strengthen economic development along North Branch

Last week, the Chicago Plan Commission approved plans to redevelop the Morton Salt facility, sending them to the Committee on Zoning, Landmarks, and Building Standards for the next review.

A well-known landmark on the North Side, Morton Salt has long occupied a 4.25-acre property located on the west bank of the Chicago River running south from Blackhawk Street on Elston Avenue.

Led by developers R2 Companies and Blue Star Properties, the project will turn the site into a mixed-use office, retail, and entertainment complex, including a community-based venue and events space that can accommodate up to 3,000 people as well as future uses such as a farmers’ market.

The so-called Salt District will add approximately 285 permanent jobs and 41,500 square feet in new office space that will attract new businesses to our service area.  Just as important, the project will support the Goose Island manufacturing district east of the property.

It’s a great example of a dynamic, adaptive reuse project that supports neighborhood jobs and wealth creation by converting a vacant riverfront property into a jobs center.

Morton Salt is expected to keep its research and development team on-site, moving into a newly renovated office of 20,000 square feet.

In our discussions with the developers, we’re pleased they have expressed interest in working with surrounding businesses to ensure a seamless transition into the neighborhood.

And the project will make it easier to get around the area by adding separate riverfront trails for people walking and biking. These paths will eventually connect to a new pedestrian bridge over the river at Blackhawk Street that’s in the North Branch Framework Plan.

The trails will also create easy access for people on foot and bike to the Wild Mile Chicago, a 17-acre floating park coming to the North Branch Canal. The paths at this development will over time connect to riverfront trails at Lincoln Yards that will run between North and Webster Avenues.

Getting to the Salt District on bike will be relatively easy thanks to the bike lanes on Elston Avenue. And if you’re coming from the west, you’ll be able to get within a quarter mile of it by using the 606/Bloomingdale trail.

The project will also add a water taxi stop and a boat launch.

Would you like to learn more about the Salt District and the progress of development projects along the North Branch? Join us for The State of Development along the North Branch on Feb. 18 at 10 a.m. You can register at no cost here.

Image credit: R2 Companies

BIG grants strengthen local businesses along North Branch

In the past six months, seven neighborhood businesses in our service area received Business Interruption Grants (BIG) from the State of Illinois, bringing in a total of $355,000.

The award recipients are Bash Sports Academy, Calihan Catering, Gallery 1028, Goose Island Shrimp House, Hideout Chicago, Maplewood Brewing, and Metropolitan Brewing.

The State of Illinois made two rounds of BIG grants; North Branch Works staff fielded questions from our members, held a virtual meeting with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, and encouraged as many of our members as possible to apply.

We’re thrilled to see financial resources coming to our member businesses during a time of tremendous need across Illinois. In some cases, these grants will help businesses survive the worst of the pandemic.

Even though these resources are flowing into our service area, it remains an incredibly important moment to support neighborhood businesses whenever possible.

And that’s another reason we’re working hard to expand our network of business members so we can foster mutually beneficial economic development that creates high-quality jobs and supports thriving businesses.

One of our top priorities remains to help our members obtain local, state, and federal grants. And we regularly do research and identify grants and other resources for business growth and development.

Receiving timely updates about resources, introductions to local businesses and nonprofits as well as help applying for grants are major benefits of joining North Branch Works as a member.

Stay tuned for information about the rollout of the second round of Paycheck Protection Program, which is expected to open to all businesses sometime during the week of January 18.

And start 2021 with the support of North Branch Works. Join us as a member, tap into our network of member businesses and nonprofits, and put our staff to work for you.

With questions and to join as a member, please contact Steve Simmons, 773-929-5552 x2226, steve@northbranchworks.org.

Wild Mile adds to dynamic North Branch of Chicago River

Adding green space along the North Branch would create an incredible neighborhood destination and support businesses, jobs, and local economic development.

The city has taken exciting steps toward this vision with the Wild Mile Chicago, a 17-acre floating park in the North Branch Canal.

Approved in the North Branch Framework Plan, the floating park will run in-stream from North Avenue south to Chicago Avenue directly behind area businesses such as Whole Foods and REI.

North Branch Works is thrilled to support this initiative, which has been led by the Chicago Department of Planning and Development and two of our partners, Urban Rivers, and the Near North Unity Program.

The Wild Mile will create vibrant open spaces and world-class wildlife sanctuaries along the North Branch that support job creation, thriving shopping districts and incredible recreational and educational opportunities.

It’s great to see the city prioritizing this part of the North Branch given nearby developments that will further neighborhood economic development, including riverfront trails at Lincoln Yards and Lathrop Homes, and the eventual completion of the 312 RiverRun Trail.

A local nonprofit, Urban Rivers, is working hard to implement the Chicago Department of Planning and Development’s Wild Mile Framework Plan.

Over the last several years, Urban Rivers staff organized a broad community coalition of stakeholders to work on the project, led community trash cleanups including one with Waste Management, conducted research studies, and spearheaded fundraising efforts.

Currently, the first phase of the floating gardens has been completed; it’s expected the construction of walkways along the North Branch Canal will be finished by the end of 2021.

So what are the next steps and how can you get involved? You can support the Wild Mile by signing up for updates and joining Urban Rivers as a member.

And Urban Rivers is seeking corporate volunteers with ambitious plans for volunteer projects as soon as they can be carried out safely.

For corporate and group volunteering opportunities, please reach out to Nick Wesley (pictured below left), co-founder and Director, 708-606-0637, nick@urbanriv.org.

Image credit (top): Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

Image credit (below): Kaylie Slack, The Columbia Chronicle

A reflection from NBW Executive Director Jonathan Snyder

As this year is winding to a close, I want to thank all of members and partners who worked with us to overcome the numerous challenges we faced this year.  Like you, I had high hopes for a year of growth with businesses creating new job opportunities in a strong economy.  Our expectations quickly turned to disappointments as the biggest public health crisis in over 100 years tore through our country.  Our hearts go out to everyone who has suffered the loss of family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues.  The disruption caused by the pandemic will reverberate for years to come.

While we came together to address this one in a lifetime pandemic, the death of George Floyd and countless others laid bare the deep divisions that persist in this country.  Numerous people came together, including many business owners in the North Branch, to peacefully protest the horrific racism that continues, and then we tragically witnessed people take advantage of peaceful protests leading to substantial destruction throughout our communities.  We join with others to condemn racism and the politics of divisiveness.

Despite the challenges we have faced, I remain hopeful for a brighter 2021.  New businesses continue to open, and we will work with them to overcome barriers, attract capital, and create jobs.  We will work with our partners in the City, lenders, and community groups to make sure that existing businesses can continue to protect their staff and serve their customers.  We will advocate for infrastructure resources, grants, and policies that enable our communities to thrive.  We will continue to support the creation of high-quality, family-sustaining jobs in the manufacturing and industrial sectors, while also supporting small businesses to open and grow.  The North Branch is a great area in which to have a business, and we urge you to join us as a member so that we can continue to build a better Chicago.

On behalf of the Board of Directors and our staff, I wish you Happy Holidays and a safe, healthy, and prosperous new year!

Calihan Catering receives $150k Business Interruption Grant

During a year of unprecedented challenges for businesses, North Branch Works has worked hard to identify and connect our members with local, city, state and federal grant opportunities.

Recently, we were thrilled to learn that Calihan Catering, a multi-generational family business on Goose Island with a thirty-five year history, received a $150k Business Interruption Grant (BIG) from the State of Illinois.

Along with this grant, Calihan Catering’s adjoining event space and sister business, Gallery 1028, obtained a $15k Business interruption Grant, raising the total amount of support to $165k.

It’s great news given that Calihan Catering’s business model is based upon large events bringing together between two and five thousand people and not easily adaptable to the current circumstances. This support is incredibly valuable given the uncertainty facing local businesses in the events space in planning for 2021.

Prior to the pandemic, Calihan Catering employed 176 people in high-quality jobs with family-sustaining wages. Although the business has been operating at 15% capacity, it’s expected these resources will help the business survive the worst of COVID-19.

Much like the assistance we provided to our members during the first round of the BIG program, we evaluated the criteria for the second round of BIG funding, determined the business was eligible, and encouraged Calihan Catering to pursue it. And like many of our member businesses, Calihan Catering promptly applied, resulting in a successful receipt of these grant awards.

The success of Calihan Catering’s application is a great example of the value in being part of North Branch Works’ network of member businesses and nonprofits as we regularly provide this type of assistance to our members.

We understand running a business requires your full attention and would love nothing more than to add value by advocating for your business needs, connecting you to city programs, helping you secure financial resources, and introducing you to fellow members for business opportunities that encourage local spending.

And while these grants will help Calihan Catering navigate the pandemic, there remains a need for regular business. If you’d like to experience Calihan Catering’s dynamic food, please contact Nash Calihan and his team at 312-587-3553, nash@calihancatering.com.

Let’s continue to support local businesses whenever possible in the North Branch community.

To join North Branch Works as a member, please contact Steve Simmons, 773-929-5552 x2226, steve@northbranchworks.org

Image credits: Calihan Catering

Top ten stories from the North Branch in 2020

As 2020 draws to a close, it’s a great time to pause and reflect on the accomplishments of the year. With that in mind, here is North Branch Works’ top ten list of stories from our service area in 2020.

As you read through them, please take a moment to celebrate these successes, especially if you are a member business and/or partnered with us to make them happen.

1. Our Executive Director Jonathan Snyder was selected to serve on the Lincoln Yards Community Advisory Council (LYCAC). The LYCAC meets regularly with the City of Chicago and Sterling Bay to review project status, including infrastructure design, and ensure community concerns are addressed.

2. North Branch Works helped member businesses in our service area receive $235,000 in COVID-19 relief grants and workforce development funding. We prioritized connecting our member businesses to grant opportunities as soon as they opened and helping them navigate the application process.

3. Despite the pandemic, our Small Accessible Repairs for Seniors (SARFS) program continued upgrading homes so longtime residents can enjoy a high quality of life. We’re on track to complete upgrades in 20 homes this year (pictured below right North Branch Works Field Manager Reggie Hamilton installing a grab bar) and planning to hit the ground running in 2021.

4. Eight new member businesses joined North Branch Works this year. We welcomed Rockwell on the River, mHub Chicago, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago, CharityWatch, SYNLawn of Chicago, the Alley Chicago, ACN Bookkeeping, and Vision One Agency. Please consider tapping into our valuable community network of businesses and nonprofits by joining as a member.

5. To keep the momentum going for infrastructure improvements for businesses on Goose Island, we hosted the second annual Goose Island Summit, bringing together about forty businesses with city leaders, including 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett, Deputy Mayor Samir Mayekar, and representatives from CTA, CDOT, and DPD.

6. One of our top priorities is the growth and development of minority-owned businesses in our service area. Toward that end, we built a wonderful partnership with the Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council, which has incredible resources for minority entrepreneurs and businesses. Take a look at these features of Chicago MSDC, MBDA Business Center and the MBDA Export Center.

7. In order to support the growing business corridor on Rockwell Street, we convened a Rockwell Street Infrastructure Task Force meeting so we could get an update on an ongoing traffic study from CDOT and give community businesses a voice in potential streetscape improvements coming to this bustling area.

8. Recently, the Logan Square Farmers Market relocated for the winter to Rockwell on the River, a major win for neighborhood economic development. The Farmers Market will be open for business on Sundays between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. until March 28, 2021.

9. Vision One Agency produced incredible video features of our business members for our first ever virtual Fall Fundraiser. Please watch these videos that showcase Metropolitan Brewing, Guild Row Chicago, and mHub Chicago.

10. North Branch Works hosted Department of Planning and Development Commissioner Maurice Cox and 33rd Ward Alderwoman Rossana Rodriguez for a tour of businesses on Rockwell Street. The tour included stops at Metropolitan Brewing, Rockwell on the River, and Guild Row Chicago (pictured right, co-founder Mike Healy speaking) as well as a discussion of the urgent need for streetscape improvements in this area.

Stay on top of the latest economic development and neighborhood business news by signing up for our bi-weekly newsletter. And please follow/like us on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.

Thank you to our members, partners, and supporters for an engaging, informative, and productive year.

Goose Island Summit highlights need for infrastructure upgrades

In carrying out its valuable role as a planned manufacturing district, Goose Island makes a major contribution to the well-being of Chicago’s economy.

A manmade island with a rich industrial legacy, Goose Island is approximately 160 acres and runs in the Chicago River from Chicago Avenue to North Avenue.

To ensure Goose Island remains a vibrant place to work and do business, North Branch Works recently convened the 2nd Annual Goose Island Summit, bringing together nearly forty businesses with city leaders, including 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett and Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Samir Mayekar, along with representatives from DPD, CDOT, and CTA, to identify top priorities and action steps.

Although the one-hour dialogue covered many topics, businesses consistently identified the urgent need for infrastructure upgrades that create safe access to and from Goose Island as well as the immediate surrounding neighborhood areas.

Participants heard updates from ongoing and future planned projects such as:

  • The removal of train tracks on Cherry St. between North Branch Street and the dead end at the north end of the island
  • The replacement of the Division Street Bridge, a vital connector for goods and services across the island, and installation of a new stop sign.
  • The ridership levels that would be required for the Chicago Transit Authority to resume the CTA #132 Goose Island Express Bus.

With new companies expected to move to Goose Island, there’ll be tremendous demand for alternative modes of transportation such as walking and biking and fast and reliable bus service.

And we know investments in infrastructure will return tremendous economic development benefits, especially on Goose Island, which is home to major companies and family-owned businesses including Mars Wrigley, Waste Management, MxD, FedEx, Amazon, Calihan Catering, and Gold Coast Auto Body.

And by attracting and retaining industrial businesses, Goose Island ensures that high-quality jobs with family-sustaining wages that require only middle skills are available to all Chicagoans.

As a significant part of our service area, North Branch Works is dedicated to serving and advocating for the business community on Goose Island so it can continue to offer high-quality jobs and serve as a major contributor to healthy neighborhoods.

With questions and to get involved in moving this work forward, please contact Steve Simmons, Director of Business and Economic Development, 773-929-5552 x2226, steve@northbranchworks.org

Image credit: Port Urbanism

North Branch Works leads new push for a safe Rockwell Street

If you’ve ever traveled to Avondale businesses on Rockwell Street between Elston and Belmont Avenues, then you know it’s not an easy area to get around by foot, bike, and car.

And having safe and easy access to businesses is smart public policy that would create many benefits including local jobs, business growth and development, and keep local dollars circulating in the neighborhood.

For these important reasons, North Branch Works is working hard to upgrade the infrastructure by convening local businesses, neighborhood residents, and key stakeholders to inform plans for a safe and accessible Rockwell Street.

This neighborhood area is home to many incredible destinations such as Rockwell on the River, Metropolitan Brewing, Metropolis Coffee, Guild Row, Bash Sports Academy, and the Alley.

Presently, this part of Rockwell St. (pictured above facing south towards Elston) lacks sidewalks in either direction, making it difficult for people on foot to navigate safely between local businesses and nearby residential areas.

And it’s even harder for people walking during peak travel times as drivers use the street as a shortcut to access the expressway via Belmont Avenue.

To build broad community support for safety upgrades, we recently convened a Rockwell St. Infrastructure Task Force meeting for approximately thirty businesses and neighborhood stakeholders in partnership with 33rd Ward Ald. Rossana Rodriguez and the Chicago Department of Transportation (CD0T).

Participants heard an update on initial findings from an ongoing traffic study being carried out by CDOT and had the opportunity to inform initial design concepts and next steps.

The study found that 300 bicyclists use this area daily. And that number is only expected to increase with the completion of the 312 RiverRun Trail as well as the prospect of a continuous Chicago River Trail.

Some of the initial design concepts include adding dedicated space for people walking and biking in addition to having vehicle lanes in both directions. Making these types of upgrades will improve public safety and create a more orderly way of getting around the area (pictured above right Rockwell St at Elston Avenue facing south).

Unfortunately, CDOT does not have any funding to build improvements at this time.

North Branch Works will continue to partner with local businesses, neighborhood stakeholders, and city leaders to move this important work forward though research, outreach, and bringing people together.

So what are the next steps and how can you get involved?

We’re excited to announce the launch of the Rockwell Street Area Advisory Committee, which is open to the public as well as any businesses and stakeholders interested in helping shape and advance a new vision for Rockwell St.

With questions and to join the committee, please contact Steve Simmons, Director of Business and Economic Development, 773-929-5552 x2226, steve@northbranchworks.org

Image credit: Chicago Department of Transportation


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