Take a drive through Chicago's South Side and try to count how many boarded-up shops and abandoned buildings line the streets. A new program known as Chicago Anchors for a Strong Economy (CASE) is creating connections between hospitals, universities, corporations, cultural institutions, and foundations to accelerate growth in Chicago's most challenged neighborhoods. CASE is funded by an initial launch grant from the Polk Brothers Foundation and contributions from other member institutions (Read Polk Brothers Foundation: Chicago Grants).
Dozens of entrepreneurs and institutions met at the Blanc Chicago Art Galley on March 17th to hear about World Business Chicago's new vision for small business owners in the city. “Chicago businesses are the backbone of our economy, and by connecting them with the city's largest institutions, and providing them with training, we are giving them new opportunities to compete,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel explained. “Such business-to-business relationships will provide 'anchor' institutions with another avenue to invest in competitive, local businesses, generate jobs, and help Chicago's economy to thrive.”
Small businesses on Chicago's South Side and throughout the city are getting connected with well-established entities like Rush University Medical Center, the University of Chicago, ComEd, and the Illinois Institute of Technology. Investing in neighborhood assets to prepare for the next economy is not only part of Mayor Emanuel's plan, but also part of the Polk Brothers Foundation's grantmaking strategy. “We are pleased to support CASE with a launch grant because we believe that the purchasing power of these anchor institutions can significantly benefit Chicago communities, foster balanced development, generate local jobs, and result in stronger local business economy,” Polk Brothers Foundation CEO, Gillian Darlow, said in a press release.
The Polk grant fits into the foundation's grantmaking strategy for community and economic development within its Social Services Program. This grant program has three strategies: financial stability/wealth creation, business development, and community planning.
There are certainly opportunities here for Chicago nonprofits working to increase job skills and employment training for disadvantaged city neighborhoods. Nonprofits that haven't worked with the Polk Brothers before should submit a pre-application online as a first step. If you own a small business in Chicago, take a closer look at the CASE program to see if your business can get involved. You can also contact Jessica Turner at CASE@worldbusinesschicago.com with questions.