Category Archives: Economy

Local Aid for Small Businesses

Given the financial trauma that has resulted from the shutting down of economies worldwide, some local Small Business Administration bodies throughout America are offering aid.  In an attempt to curtail the economic deceleration that has resulted from coronavirus, assistance loans up to $2 million and being provided to those most impacted. In this video Kate Rogers of CNBC, reports.

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. 

Chicago’s Economy: What to Expect in 2020

In a recent article in Crain’s Chicago Business, three business experts were consulted on how they see Chicago shaping up in 2020.  While there has been some less-than-positive predictions for Chicago’s economy as we move into the new year, we choose here to focus on the optimistic side of things. 

Thanks to developed in various high-skilled industries (including technology and data), Chicago is starting to re-gain its global-player reputation.  With Amazon, Google and Uber having recently announced local expansions as well as the region’s universities attracting top quality students, Chicago is developing a good reputation.

In the article’s Q&A format, founder of the Regional Economics Applications Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Geoff Hewings said:

“We have a very low unemployment rate; we are creating jobs at a healthy rate, although not a dramatic one. While we’ve never expanded at the rate of New York or Seattle, I’m honestly not sure that we want that. I don’t think we need to be the fastest-growing metropolitan economy—we just need economic growth that’s manageable. Part of the draw of Chicago is its affordability. We’ve got enormous assets in that regard, and they’re necessary conditions to help us achieve economic growth.”

Director of the Great Cities Institute at the University of Illinois at Chicago Teresa Cordova explained it like this:

“Since the mid-1970s, more and more people—particularly African Americans—have been increasingly left out of the economy. The decline of manufacturing and other middle-income jobs led to the creation of geographic pockets of chronic joblessness that just becomes entrenched for decades. And today there are incredible disparities. We did a report showing that while Cook County leads the nation in white employment, we also lead in black joblessness. The people leaving the state are disproportionately African American. This inequality affects economic growth, and it will only get worse unless we do something.”

There is some work to be done though.  According to DePaul University’s Professor Emeritus of Economics and Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago economic consultant, William Sander:

Addressing the pension issue is fundamental. All states struggle to some degree with pension liabilities, but it is acutely worse here. We have no choice but to pay it, and the longer we put it off, the more expensive it’s going to become. It’s complicated, though, because real action requires changes to the whole system. Politically, that’s hard, but the alternative is even harder on the taxpayer.

These are just some of the issues to observe in 2020 in Chicago.

Building up Local Businesses

Four local development groups in underserved communities will be the recipients of $2.5 million each thanks to the generosity of Starbucks.  The US coffee company and coffeehouse chain is hoping that this will result in economic growth for the area. Awardees are: Accion Chicago, Chicago Community Loan Fund (CCLF), Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), and the International Film Festival.

This money will be used to finance 500+ loans for small businesses in Chicago via the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI). Struggling businesses will be able to get advice and in some cases financial help – resources they could not have accessed otherwise via traditional sources such as financial institutions.  According to Kevin Johnson, Starbucks CEO:

“We believe the pursuit of profit is not in conflict with the pursuit of doing good. We know that our business performs at its best when the communities we serve are thriving. 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.”

Starbucks is not the first corporation to offer such help.  A little over a year ago JPMorgan Chase & Co. invested $10million for the provision of properties for black business development in the Windy City.

Market Expansion in Chicago

There are many opportunities in Chicago for those wishing to start a business, expand on their projects or move in a new entrepreneurial direction. This Friday is the Annual Food Policy Summit.  Taking place at the south Shore Culture Center, the event – from 9.30am to 5.pm – is organized by the Chicago Food Policy Action Council (CFPAC) in conjunction with the Detection and Classification of Acoustic Scenes and Events (DCASE).  Now in its 14th year, a series of workshops, food demos and resources will be available.  Click here for more information. 

Small business owners and will be able to learn how they can participate in the City Markets program as well as benefit from Chicago’s vending opportunities.

Next week on March 18, a workshop will be hosted by the Chicago City Markets Team, in conjunction with Logan Square Farmers Market and Bronzeville Boxville Market executives.  Discussions for new market applicants will be centered on how to find a market most appropriate for one’s needs.

In other Chicago business expansion news we see the movement of security integrator Security 101 opening a new office in Chicago.    It will be run by David Ritland who is both owner and president; a man who has expanded another company – The Sentral Group – to five American and one Mexican plant.  CEO of the firm, Steve Crespo said:

Chicago is an exciting market with a number of growing businesses and organizations needing quality integrated security to protect employees and assets. Dave and his team will be backed by the Security 101 organization and its other franchise offices.”

Chicagoans Helping Each Other

How is America’s longest-ever government shutdown impacting Chicagoans?  What are people doing to lessen the burden felt by locals?  In this article, we look at that specific issue as well as the more general problem of the city’s homeless population.

Companies in Chicago are helping people out by giving free lunches, tickets to the museum and even temporary employment.  Getting a free sandwich at the Adler Planetarium doesn’t pay the bills but it’s a nice gesture to help people get through their day. Meanwhile at Horse Thief Hollow – a restaurant catering to federal workers at Midway Airport – is featuring a shutdown special with a free lunch valued up to $15.

Meanwhile 34-year-old real estate developer Candice Payne decided to help the homeless.  Payne – whose own boyfriend was once homeless – was working from home one day when outside temperature was subzero.  That inspired her to find a way to help out.

She set out by contacting hotels to see if they would open their doors to the homeless.  After being turned down by many, she accessed 30 rooms at The Amber Inn.  Transporting the homeless there proved to be her next challenge so she turned to social media.  The post went viral and the end result was 72 rooms for 5 nights being booked, assisting 122 people thanks to numerous donations. 

They say one good deed deserves another so perhaps that was why Payne was invited to appear on The Ellen DeGeneres show where she received a $25,000 gift token for Walmart.

Improving the Plight of Minorities

For centuries people have been working in different capacities, in varied cities and countries, to improve the environment of where they are for the minorities living in them.  2019 and Chicago is apparently very less different than one would imagine.  here we take a little look as to what the city is doing currently in this vein.

according to The Reader’s, Pete Saunders:

“Chicago’s black population, the city’s largest demographic in 2000, has dropped by 24 percent through 2017, going from more than one million in 2000 to just under 800,000 in 2017. The number of whites in Chicago surpassed blacks in 2017, and Latinos will almost certainly pass blacks by the time of the 2020 census.”

Why is that?  Why are blacks leaving Chicago?  if this was not the case, the population of Chicago would actually be increasing. instead, there seems to be a move to places such as Atlanta, Dallas and Houston.

Is there perhaps discrimination against minorities?  according to Mayoral candidate Toni Preckwinkle, if voted in she will “bring equity to an overly punitive ticketing policy that has unfairly targeted minority motorists and forced thousands of them into bankruptcy. one part of her proposed policy will be the reversal of what she terms a punitive policy that (according to a Woodstock Institute study)  targets motorists in “low- and moderate- income communities of color” at a 40 percent higher rate than those from more affluent neighborhoods.  she would also set up a task force within her proposed Office of Criminal Justice to thoroughly investigate “the disparities between aggressive ticketing in black and brown communities and less-aggressive ticketing in white neighborhoods.”

Educationally efforts are being made to assist minority groups too. along with a few other universities nationwide, the University of Chicago extended its application deadline.  it was discovered by George Washington University that such an extension “helped reach more underrepresented minorities. The school received an additional 600 applications from African-American, Hispanic and first-generation college students after extending its deadline to Jan. 15 from Jan. 5.”  Hopefully the same will be true for Chicagoans.

Looking Ahead: Business Growth in the US in 2019

Economic Growth

At the 2018 EY Strategic Growth Forum, the advice given to the invite-only annual conference for leading US-executive leaders was based on the following key elements:

  • Establish a purpose
  • Create a solid foundation
  • Contemplate the future
  • Customer prioritization.

Steve Costello summed up some more of the outcomes of the conference.  He speaks about the advice given from jewelry designer Kendra Scott on the importance of setting up an advisory board.  This is important, not necessarily for advice but to maintain a strong system of checks and balances.  She advised:

“Report to them quarterly like a public company and have biannual planning meetings with them.  We all have biases, so select balanced, deep thinkers who’ve known you a long time and can easily identify your blind spots.Like your best mentors, they’ll give you the perspective you don’t want to hear.”

co-founder of the organic baby food brand Once Upon a Farm Jennifer Garner advises using the business you establish to help fund causes dear to your heart.  She explained:

“I’m in business because I’m sick of asking people for money. I … generate money by getting people to buy a product that helps them and can help someone else.” And she has proceeds of her company donated to the Ron Finley Project which provides healthy food and access to urban gardens in underserved LA communities.

Regarding stocks,it is anticipated that there will be a “modest recovery” next year mainly due to “pressure from higher interest rates and concerns about peaking earnings growth. Investing in smaller, domestically focused companies had been among the most popular strategies in 2018, as tariff tensions and a fiscal stimulus boost made them into safe havens.” 

In fact, many economic experts anticipate a And in general, US economic growth is expected to be very small next year, with an even deeper drop in growth levels in the second quarter.  Thankfully few believe that it is likely to result in a huge recession.