AT&T: Giving Back to the Community

In this video we learn about how AT&T is seeking to not only to provide services, but also to be a part of the community.  They spend time strategizing to think of what they can do for the community to get more involved.  One example of this is a project they run for students come in after school, to assist them with their homework and see what they can do to help.

Back to School – and Business – in Chicago

The long summer holidays are over and now children are finally heading back to school.  That means businesses are getting more back to normal as parents are finally able to return to their full time work schedules.

But some Chicagoans got back to work even earlier than the official end of summer date – Labor Day Weekend.  Parents were back at their desks over two weeks ago on August 14! Indeed, for most districts in Illinois, September 1st is just another day in the school calendar.  Maine East, Maine South and Maine West students all returned to school on August 14.

One district official explained that this move of returning to school earlier  began back in 2015.  The idea behind it was to finish the fall semester before students go back home for their December Winter break.  In theory it is also meant to relieve stress for high school students who really could benefit from the earlier break.

In other areas of Chicago – as well as public schools – kids returned to school tomorrow.  This past Saturday, hundreds of backpacks were given out in Garfield Park thanks to fundraising efforts of the church in University Village.

Using Challenges to Jumpstart Careers

Why do people love to push themselves?  Over the years – pretty much since the end of the caveman days – people have traditionally tried to push themselves out of their comfort zones.  Apart from it being a healthy way to gain strength and stay in shape, mentally, stepping out of one’s comfort zone has been a proven tactic of bettering all skills.

According to an article in Business Insider written last year, the benefits of pushing oneself are beneficial to one’s career. Sammi Carmela listed four reasons why:

  1. Confidence booster
  2. Perception by others enhanced
  3. Experience
  4. Broadening of horizons

We sent two members of our staff to the Ultimate Ninjas Chicago a few months ago. Last week we interviewed them both on the impact they felt it had on their careers.  Here is the transcript of the interview our editor conducted with photographer Mozes Victor Konig.

Editor:  Mozes, why did you initially agree to take part in the Ultimate Ninjas Chicago?  Have you ever done anything like this before?
Mozes: Actually my job sometimes requires me to enter into situations that are out of my comfort zone.  But when I’m on a job I feel I do not have a choice.  In my regular day-to-day life, if I can avoid such situations then I will.  As my boys are getting older they increasingly pressure me to do things like this. That’s why I thought it would be a good idea.
Editor:  Do you not feel like it benefited your career?
Mozes: On the contrary!  Because I pushed myself for a leisure activity, it gave me much more confidence for when I am faced with something like this at work.  Usually when photographing in an event – if I get stuck in a tight spot – I feel like I’m having a panic attack.  Just last week I was asked to take shots at Six Flags and I really enjoyed it.  Usually I wouldn’t have a good time at all; I would just get on with it.
Editor: Would you say that getting out of your comfort zone in a fun way has helped you at work?
Mozes: Absolutely.  And I would advise others to do the same.  If you do something for fun and make a decision ahead of time to enjoy it, it can be so much more awesome than just being forced to do it.  Plus, when you enjoy what you’re doing on the job, you’re going to much more successful.  You should have seen some of the shots I took!
Editor: Thank you for your time Mozes.  We look forward to seeing your great work in the future.

The good thing about the Sacramento Ninja Warrior Obstacle Park is that while it comprises 7 obstacles, it enables participants to go at their own time, on their own terms and within their own levels. This is already helpful for confidence bolstering that is such a huge part of career advancement.

The Fair Workweek

A bill was unanimously approved recently by Chicago’s City Council that will force employers of large firms in the state to give at least two weeks’ notice of schedules to their employees.  When last minute changes occur, they will have to be compensated.  However, the rule will only apply to workers who earn $26 or less per week.

The “fair workweek” has actually been in developmental stages for over two years in eight industries.  Should this become law, it will be an unprecedented move in America.

It could be particularly challenging however, for those in the medical and healthcare sectors.  Initially, the Illinois Health and Hospital Association put forward an opposition but after efforts were made on both sides for a compromise solution, this was withdrawn.

Chicago: Local Quality of Life

Chicago is a wonderful place to live, featuring fabulous beaches (and the Chicago River), great culture (the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Art), impressive educational institutes (Northwestern University and the University of Chicago) county fairs and so much more.

But for the regular man/woman in the street, what are some of the issues that are being confronted?  Here we look at how the region deals with the following: recidivism, housing and health.

A recent report published by the Metropolitan Planning Council in conjunction with the Illinois Justice Project has pointed out a practical way of decreasing recidivism.  It found that since so many of these programs focus on jobs, there is a lack of attention given to another hugely important area for returning prisoners:  housing. The report is suggesting a greater focus on this matter.

As such, the report has assembled over a dozen proposals that could assist government officials in this task and save the state of Chicago $100+m per year. Given that the current recidivism figures are close to 40 percent this is a huge issue.  The report found that a large number of these individuals returning to prison were struggling with housing.  According to co-author of the Re-Entry Housing Issues in Illinois report, King Harris:

“The discussion around preventing recidivism is always focused on job training for people and somewhat on their health needs. Rarely is the conversation focused on housing and we feel that is the missing link.” 

Another issue for Chicagoans is the reduction in their housing value.  The weakest rate of growth in over 42 months was reported in May of this year.  According to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Indices, there was a miniscule 1.6 percent growth in the value local single family homes.  compared to the nation average, overall home prices developed less than half the 3.4 percent rate. one reason cited for this is slow job growth which again adds to recidivism issues.

In better news though, healthcare could be seen to be booming, or at least, hospitals.  Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital was ranked number 10 out of nearly 5,000 US hospitals in the 2019-20 Best Hospitals study. furthermore, according to a recent article by Lynne Marek:

“When it comes to health care, the Chicago area has a cottage industry of private-equity firms that invest in that sector, also including Linden Capital Partners, Waud Capital and Water Street Healthcare Partners, among others. The city developed the niche as professionals from health care giants Abbott and Baxter moved into investing.”

Chicago’s Fresh Food Market

Chicago is soon to get a lot more fresh food options for its locals.  With both Get Fresh Produce and Forty Acres Fresh Market making their presence in the region, Chicagoans are now almost spoilt for fresh produce choice.

Get Fresh Produce has recently been added by IF&P Food distributor in Chicago.  According to President and COO of Indianapolis Fruit, Greg Corsaro, this is just the start and over the  next few years the firm intends to implement a “pretty aggressive growth plan that includes bringing on additional companies.”

IF&P is one of Midwest’s largest food distributors and has been in business since 1997 with a staff count of 750 mainly local-based employees.  Get Fresh has approximately 375 employees and has facilities in Bartlett, Chicago and Whitestown, Indiana.

When Liz Abunaw moved to Chicago seven years ago she noticed a gap in the market, in particular in Austin.  She found that the area was severely lacking in fresh, locally-produced fruit and vegetables.  But she really liked the area, referring to it as “the most unique, vibrant, weird, but completely awesome [section of Chicago. Her] ultimate vision is a convenient place where people can walk to in their neighborhood for those fill-in trips between the big pantry loads – as well as maybe some prepared foods.”

Given all these factors, Abunaw decided to create a local food market, but with a specific goal of serving the predominantly black population. And so Forty Acres Fresh Market was born, in reference to “the promise of reparations for freed slaves after the Civil War.”  Located on 5051 W Chicago Avenue, the pop-up store is open the second weekend of every month (Friday, Saturday and Sunday). 




Local Transportation News

Riders of Chicago’s Metra could soon be in for a treat.  But it is quite a long time coming. Given that over 50% of its rail cars have been in use for more than four decades, a renovation has been needed for a while.  And now thankfully, that will happen.

On Monday, a news conference took place discussing plans for the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA)and Rebuild Illinois Program.  With a $45 billion expenditure budget, Metra is earmarked to a decent amount of money, enough to implement some substantial changes within the next five years.

James Derwinski, CEO and Executive of the Metra Board of Directors explained:

“In the next five years, we are going to be able to put out a contract for new cars…that is the first and the biggest one passengers will see all over the system. We are going to be investing in technologies that are going to be looking at the gate circuits and also the switches out there…and start providing critical data before they fail.”

Meanwhile commuters to Indianapolis will be happy to learn that on July 1st OurBus began a trial route to Chicago.  The New York company is charging $10 for each rider, following customer feedback indicating a need for this. The route it will take will begin in Downtown Indianapolis (across from the IndyGo Transit Center), then stop in Zionsville, Lafayette and complete its route between Canal Street and the Chicago River in Jackson Boulevard.

Advancements in Local Job Creation

Finger Licking’s menu features a $22.99 lobster meal

Whenever there is new business development in an area, it leads to job creation.  Large metropolitan areas are delighted when this happens and policymakers usually do whatever they can to facilitate the process.   In this article we look at two companies: one large (Ford Motor Company) and one small (The Licking Chicago) to see what their current plans are in the region.

At the far South Side, a renovation of two Ford Plants (costing $1 billion) has  just been completed.  One of the plants was the company’s oldest continuously producing one.  It has now been completely converted to a state-of-the-art facility in order to construct the new Ford Explore.  Featuring a brand-new paint shop, advanced tooling (which will be used for the development of the new SUV line) and contemporary body shop, the remodeling took a mere month to complete.  Although there will be over 650 robots, this does not seem to have affected the massive job creation that has emerged from this project. The sentiment was echoed by Local 551 Union Chairman Alan Millender who said he was “surprised[since with] the new robots, you think would take jobs away, but it actually added jobs in Chicago. My dad worked 51.4 years here he would be amazed what this plant has come from.”

Ford Motor Company President Joe Hinrichs said:

“We’re proud of our commitment to the South Side of Chicago. 95 years of being here. This investment says a lot about the community and our support we get here, our great workforce. The Explorer Aviator is sold out for this year and we think next year as well. So, great signs for this community, including the stamping plant, and a big commitment by Ford.”

On a smaller scale, a popular Miami chain restaurant – Finga Licking – has just opened at 5045 W. Madison.  The owner – popular hip-hop/rap, artist/producer DJ Khaled – is seeking to “make the franchise accessible and bring jobs to communities that need them.”  This sentiment was echoed by Sharod Robinson, regional manager who said:

“We’re about bringing jobs and creation to the urban neighborhoods. We employee over 100 employees and all of them are from within the community.” 

Chicago: Constructing Community in All Ways

Community building can be engineered in a variety of different ways.  Some involve the actual construction of buildings, renovations, enhancements and others are more connected to development of tradition or creation of events.  In this article we look at two recent efforts in the region to build, maintain and strengthen Chicago community.

The first example is what is happening in Vernon Hills with the Hawthorn Mall property.  Centennial Real Estate is preparing to begin its $6.2 million revamp of the center court.  The goal is to construct a multi-use “central park” environment.  This will involve a complete transformation of the area, hopefully in time for the holiday shopping season.

It is hoped that this space will feature: coffee store/wine bar; two treelike sculptures; lounges on upper level and more, resulting in a “sophisticated parklike experience,” that is “interactive, engaging [and suitable] for all ages.”

Uplifting a neighborhood and providing new experiences for the youth and other demographics is another way of building community. A recent example of this is the partnership between the 8000 Euclid block club and My Block My Hood My City.   According to 8000 Euclid Block Club Founder and President, Pam Bilal, these organizations can really result in a bolstering of a city.  She said:

“In a diverse city like Chicago with a lot of segregation, often times people like to stay in their own little pocket and just take care of themselves. And we want people to understand that it’s not about the little man, it’s about the community. And we want to have a vibrant, exciting, financially stable community. So that’s why we start block clubs.”