3/15/2017, noon | Updated on 3/15/2017, noon
Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently announced new resources designed to support thriving retail corridors across Chicago’s South, Southwest and West Sides. ...

up to $250,000 will be issued by the City beginning this spring, and larger grants will be available on a case-by-case basis pending City Council approval. Businesses that apply for Retail Thrive Zone grants will be automatically considered for Neighborhood Opportunity Fund grants where appropriate. More information can be found at www.NeighborhoodOpportunityFund.com.

Retail Thrive Zones and the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund are the latest Emanuel administration initiatives designed to support neighborhood businesses. In 2012, the Mayor’s license reforms reduced the number of businesses license types from 117 to 49, reducing number of licenses businesses needed to obtain – saving both time and money. In recent months the City has identified numerous opportunities to further consolidate or cut outdated licensing regulations, which will eventually reduce the total number of business licenses to 40 – a two-thirds reduction

since 2011. The reduction would make the total number of business licenses in Chicago 70 percent fewer than Washington D.C. and 25 percent fewer than New York City.

Emanuel released the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund on February 27. Andrea L. Zopp, who is Deputy Mayor and Chief Neighborhood Development Officer said right now, there is about $4 million in the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund that will be used for grants. “But we expect that the fund will continue to grow over time and we hope in about 3-5 years, it will be up to $50 million dollars. So, this is going to be a pool of dollars of capital investment in the south, southwest and west sides of the city,” she said.

Local entrepreneurs, when asked, showed support for

the initiatives.

Dorian Myrickes, co-owner of Vinnie’s Steakhouse, located at 400 E. 47th St., said, he and his partner are looking to expand their young establishment in other parts of Chicago and thinks the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund has come at the right time.

“I think it would be great,” Myrickes said. “It would give black people the opportunity to see how businesses are run in our communities and give us an opportunity of being business owners.”

Arthur Grant III, business owner of Games Plus Incorporated, which is located in the Chatham area at 8237 South Cottage Grove Avenue, said he also believes that the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund will be good for the black community, but says more money should be invested into the


“If I have the opportunity to apply for it, then I think I should benefit from the tax money that I pay,” Grant III said. “I think $16 million dollars is just a minimal amount of money that can support the [black] businesses in this city.”

Johnny Stallworth II, son of Johnny Stallworth, the owner of John and Sons General Contractors Inc., located at 7350 S. Halsted St., said the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund will be beneficial to the black community and will help youth gain employment through the black businesses and

prevent them from having to purchase supplies and goods outside of their community.

“I think it’s a real good thing for the community,” Stallworth said. “I think it will help in several avenues like education, economics and [overall] I think it would be very good for the [youth].”

Malcolm Crawford, owner of Sankofa Cultural Arts and Business Center (5820 W. Chicago Ave), and executive director of The Austin African American Business Networking Association, Incorporated (AAABNA)

said, he along with Chicago’s Department Planning and Development have worked tirelessly for two years to try and help the black community gain more access to capital.

Applications for the grant will be accepted twice a year, which began Feb, 27, 2017 and will end April 21, 2017 and the second application slot will begin Aug. 2, 2017 to Oct. 2, 2017, according to the neighborhood opportunity fund page. Entrepreneurs can apply for the money to purchase

space, renovate space, buy equipment, pay for architectural cost to help them expand and grow their businesses, Zopp said.

Chris Shuttlesworth

Press releases