An article in the Chicago Tribune that announces Chase bank’s increase in the amount of grants it is offering in Chicago goes on to detail myriad existing grant, loan, and donation programs from public and private sources for neighborhoods that have few jobs, few resources, no privilege, and lots of quality of life problems.
But not all of the programs. There are more, but I don’t even know how many more, nor do I know all of their names. I just know that I’ve read about them before.
The article is where I learned that Benefit Chicago – a $100 million investment fund operated by the Chicago Community Trust, MacArthur Foundation, and Calvert Foundation, but hasn’t finished raising all the money – has started giving out loans and grants to Chicago recipients, including Garfield Produce Company.
Calvert Foundation has a brokerage (I think that’s the best name for it) through which regular Chicagoans can invest $20 minimum and earn 1.0% interest on that investment after 1 year. Longer periods net higher returns.
Anyway, back to my point…
If I were a business owner in Chicago, and I wanted financial assistance to expand my business – say, buy more kitchen equipment to be able to produce more food – where would I start looking?
Is there a list somewhere? Will my alder know? Is there a group in my neighborhood that can help me track down a funder? Is this more complicated than getting a VC to fund a “Bodega killer“?
One of the things I’ve tried to do with the tens of thousands of maps on Chicago Cityscape is highlight when a business or property owner could be eligible for financial assistance based purely on their geography.
These geographers where government funding is available are marked with a green icon of a dollar bill that links to a Resources page I adapted from a pamphlet the city’s planning department used to produce. These include:
- TIF (tax increment financing) districts, including whether the district participates in the Small Business Improvement Fund
- MMRP (micro market recovery program)
- Enterprise Zone (a state of Illinois program)
- Industrial Growth Zone (expedited approval processes + environmental remediation money)
- Special Service Area (SSA; business improvement district)
- Chicago landmark and National Register of Historic Places districts
- Planned Manufacturing Districts (PMD), although I forget what assistance is available here
- Neighborhood Opportunity Fund zones (an interesting policy that charges developers for additional density and grants that money to small business owners on the South and West Sides)
Not every area within the above categories is in a disinvested neighborhood because not every program was designed for that.
Once you know this, I guess you can target your research. But there’s still a lot more to do. To start: Where the heck is Chase investing? Where the heck is Benefit Chicago investing? They don’t publish maps, as far as I can tell.
Actually, thinking about this more, as I reach nearly 400 words in this blog post, I’ve got another idea: Show up at Rahm’s new Small Business Center at City Hall and ask them.