Women’s History Month

While there does seem to be incredible chaos in the world right now, there is still cause for celebration.  Last month was Women’s History Month and we are coming up to the centenary milestone of women’s right to vote – ratified in America on August 18 2020.  There’s a lot to be happy about.

We take this opportunity to look at three of the amazing women in our very own communities: T. “Ayo” Alston, Siobhan Summers and Katy Winge.

T. “Ayo” Ashton  is today known for the Ayodele Drum and Dance Community that she established in 2009 This educational body was made for women to help them with their own self-confidence and to in turn, create strength in their local communities.

Born in Brooklyn, Ashton first found her love for Orisha culture and West African dance as an adolescent and since then she has focused her journey on exploring art, development techniques and growing in these areas.  Some of the artists she has worked with include: Baba Chuck Davis, Dierdre Dawkins, M’Bemba Bangoura and Mouminatou Camara.

Supervising producer at Chicago’s video production firm Bottle Rocket Media, Siobhan Summers started her career on Oprah Winfrey’s show in the production team.  Since then she has developed her skills to successfully create meaningful tales with powerful messages.  This involves the supervision of all productions from A-Z.  Her love of storytelling creates interpersonal connections that she has helped grow among her local community.

Katy Winge was the very first female analyst hired to cover the Nuggets for Altitude TV.  Getting to that role was not easy.  She began her career as a sports anchor, producer and reporter for KTTC/FOX 47 and at some point faced a fork in the road – carry on with her role or take a break and pursue a Masters degree in Journalism.  She opted for the latter and studied at Northwestern University, IL.  Even though she was advised by many to continue in her role as getting experience would be preferable to getting an education for career development, she went with her “gut” and does not regret that decision at all.  She explains that she got so much out of the education, including the people she met, the things she learned and the network she created which all played a big role in where she is today.

Today she tells everyone to “go with their gut” which obviously is different for everyone.  We all need to find our own journey.

So, in these trying times, let’s look at what we’ve achieved and how much more there is to do, no matter what situation we currently find ourselves in.

Chicago Businesses Debuting

There have been some new businesses opening locally.  Here we take a look at some of them.  For Mexican food lovers, mosey on down to 2022 W. 35th Street where El Chile Toreado recently opened.   For those who want to try Ahogada, Cubana, Carne Asada and so much more, these are just some of the dishes on offer.

There is also something for beer lovers.  The latest venture to tantalize your taste buds in the region is the Burning Bush Brewery featuring a variety of changing local brews as well as wine on tap.  Take a bite to eat there from their food trucks or snack menu which includes bread sticks, cheese and crackers.

What a great name for an optometrist.  Eye Q Optique has just joined the hood at 709 S. Seely Avenue.  

In other Chicago-based news, City Hall veteran Tiffany Hamel Johnson was just named CEO of Chicago United, succeeding Gloria Castillo.  As the first African American female chief in the position (which was inaugurated in 1968), this appointment is most noteworthy.

Chicago: The New Digital Marketing Hub?

The MxD (Manufacturing and Digital) company is booming in Chicago.  Civic leaders figured out this could be the place for MxD around six years ago given the region’s logistical ease, efficient transportation and solid industry base. 

Money was provided by the State of Illinois in conjunction with the City of Chicago to build around 100,000 square feet of MxD office space and factories etc., while the Department of Defense provided $80m in seed funding.  MxD is now working toward the development of a cybersecurity workforce for Chicago within its high schools, city colleges and more. 

In a recent Press Release, Chandra Brown, CEO of MxD said that the company would be:

“accelerating its mission to serve the U.S. manufacturing industry with new digital technologies, cyber and workforce programs. These accomplished and energized new directors will deepen our ability to serve the industry more effectively and position the Institute for long-term success.”

The industry definitely has a lot of potential in Chicago.

Is Chicago Business on a High?

Business in Chicago seems to be on a high, perhaps quite literally.  This seems to be in particular due to the success of the recreational marijuana industry.  On January 1 of this year Dispensary 33 started selling and immediately brought in a large revenue.

Local business executives and employees working nearby have noticed a jump in their own sales.  One staff member of SoFo Tamp close by said that people waiting to get into the Dispensary end up “buying a couple of drinks” in the meantime.  In addition, Jenny’s Nail Salon reported having “picked up a couple of new customers” due to the traffic at the Dispensary.

As well as being beneficial to other local businesses, it is also expected to impact the local economy given the tax revenues coming from the first month of sales, valued at $40 million.

While every good story has the naysayers, Dispensary 33 is no different.  There have been some complaints from those saying they are against having a store selling pot in their midst but overall it seems the economic benefits are outweighing the disapprovals.

Furthermore, people from outside of Chicago are coming to visit so that they can make their purchases, and, of course, while in the Windy City will make other purchases, utilize local services and ultimately spend quite a bit of money while there.  Some financial experts believe that this could lead to a huge revitalization in the area which has some great businesses that may have been inadvertently overlooked.

And, aldermen from Aurora are hoping to re-authorize four ward programs to bolster revitalization in local neighborhoods including:

  • Ward 1 Business Grant Program: 50-50 match up to $5,000 a project annually for qualifying businesses.
  • Ward 2 Fence Improvement Program for residents requiring assistance in repairing/renovating yard fences.

In other financial regional news there was an announcement by Fifth Third Bank that an estimated $20 million will be directed to projects in the South and West of the City in housing, creating jobs.  Plus, a $12 million capital fund money program will be launched by Gov. JB Pritzker in an effort to bolster private investments in the 300+ opportunity zones in Illinois. 

City of Chicago Construction Summit

On February 19, 2020 between 10am-2pm, Chicago’s Department of Procurement Services hosted the City of  Chicago Construction Summit at Malcolm X College.  The first event of its kind, attendee Amy DeVallet spoke of the immense “entrepreneurial spirit” she felt while there.

Moshe Victor Keinig, a retired architect from Tel Aviv, Israel, said that he “hoped to be able to get there next year. I heard tremendously positive reports about the event and I am hopeful — given how popular it was this year — it will become an annual occurrence.”

National Register of Historic Places

Two sites in Chicago have been added to the National Register of Historic Places. The Chicago Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium District today acts as a senior home and has changed its name to North Park Village.  Also there is a gymnastics center operated by Chicago Park Center and a nature center comprising 46 acres of land.  The second site is The Forum which was built back in 1897 and has since become a very popular local music scene.  For three-quarters of a century it could perhaps be best described as Bronzeville’s “political, social and cultural epicenter.”

According to Colleen Callahan, Illinois Director of Natural Resources, “each of these places tells a unique story that is part of the rich fabric of Illinois history. We are proud to work with local preservationists to obtain national recognition for these historic buildings and neighborhoods.”

All in all, 12 sites from throughout Illinois were added in 2019 to the register.

O’Hare – The Chicago Neighborhood That’s Great for Business

When deciding on Chicago as one’s home, a number of considerations must be addressed. One of the most important ones for individuals aged 20-70 is business opportunities.  Being one of America’s largest cities however means that there are many options within its borders.  In this article we take a look at the O’Hare area – the location of the International Airport.

There are a lot of opportunities here for businesses and therefore employment vacancies are often high.  Why is O’Hare so popular for companies?  For those combining both urban and suburban employee sets, it makes sense.  Some of the firms that have recently moved into the area are U.S. Cellular and GlenStar, for this reason.  As a result, building proprietors are also working on enhanced contracts and facilities for their tenants.

It’s a good area also due to public transit access and having a Chicago address is always welcome.  But at the same time – given its location on the edge of the suburbs while being right by the country’s most active airports – makes for a great combination.  Transportation access gives businesses an upper hand vis-à-vis talent recruitment for corporations. And for those professionals who have to travel internationally on a regular basis, what could be better than being right by the airport?

Chicago’s Economy: Starbucks’ Support

Starbucks is going to be injecting a large amount of cash into the local economy. The US coffeehouse chain revealed that it will be giving $10m to the economy to support local development in an endeavor to propel economic expansion and new business owners.  This will be put primarily into the more underserved regions.

It is anticipated that at least 500 loans will be financed through this $10m donation.  Four community leaders will be given the money: Accion Chicago, Chicago Community Loan Fund, the IFF and the Local Initiative Support Corporation.

As well as money, those taking the loans will be given guidance, assistance, logistical/technical training, etc. Kevin Johnson, CEO of Starbucks explained:

“We believe the pursuit of profit is not in conflict with the pursuit of doing good. This sustained investment will provide borrowers who often face barriers with access to capital and mentorship to grow their business and create more jobs in Chicago.” 

This is not the first time Starbucks has given generously to bolster the economy and help the impacts of the recession.  In 2011 – in conjunction with the Opportunity Finance Network – invested $5 million in its Create Jobs for USA initiative raising $15 for community lenders nationwide. 

Quality of Living in Chicago

When it comes to high quality of living in the US, Chicago is up there.  In a recent 24/7Wallst. Com ranking of best places to live, Winnetka Village took the No. 2 place.  Ranking was based on: affordability, culture, jobs and low crime rate. Situated 20 miles north downtown Chicago, the name is derived from the Native American word for “beautiful land.”

This is not the city’s first Rodeo.  Back in 2011 it was featured in CNN Money’s List of Best Places to Live.  Plus, location wise it’s hard to find a more picturesque spot, alongside Lake Michigan with its sandy beaches, historic attractions and great educational institutions.

With nearly 30 parks, eateries, specialty merchants four shopping districts, an unemployment rate of 2.4 percent and an average commute time of 37 minutes, this has a lot to offer. The only one disadvantage is the cost of living being 130 percent higher than the national average.

In terms of employment opportunities, it seems NextCapital is a good choice. The enterprise digital advice® firm was featured in the 2020 List of Best Places to Work in Chicago 2020 assembled by Built In.  According to firm CEO, John Patterson:

“Investing in the company’s growth and success starts with investing in its people. We foster a diverse culture of people and ideas through programs like 10% time, where engineers can spend 10% of their week on self-driven projects, and DIVE, an employee-driven group that encourages diversity, inclusion, and equity.”