Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) are launching the “Neighborhood Small Business Challenge,” a funding competition for local nonprofit organizations to propose and enact plans to strengthen Chicago’s neighborhoods and local small businesses. Organizations will compete for a grant pool of $200,000 and submit plans to boost neighborhood tourism, provide technology training to businesses and makeover a business corridor. Winning organizations will receive grants between $10,000 and $25,000 each, and BACP will oversee performance to ensure that the city’s goals are met.
“Chicago is a city of neighborhoods and we will only be a strong Chicago if our neighborhoods and communities are strong,” said Mayor Emanuel. “Small businesses employ half of the city’s workforce, which is why my goal from day one has been to make City Hall a partner to the city’s job creators, not an obstacle.”
The Challenge is part of Emanuel’s “Neighborhood Small Business Growth Strategy,” which was first launched a year ago. Since unveiling the strategy, the city has developed and delivered a number of initiatives that provide Chicago’s small businesses with support to help them grow and thrive. These initiatives include launching a redesigned website devoted to small business services, developing new tools such as Site Selector, which helps small businesses list and find available retail space, and providing capacity building through training and workshops to neighborhood service providers.
A total of $200,000 in new funding is available to proposals that are selected through a Request for Proposals (RFP) process; selected proposals will receive between $10,000 and $25,000 each. These RFPs are open to all currently contracted Neighborhood Business Development Centers (NBDCs), which include Chambers of Commerce and other nonprofit organizations, as well as other nonprofit organizations that do not currently have a contract with the city.
Entities can submit proposals for any and all of the three RFPs, which include:
Neighborhood Tourism Plan (Up to four awards at $25,000 each):
• Organizations will work closely with Choose Chicago to create a neighborhood tourism plan to bring additional visitors to local neighborhoods throughout Chicago.
• Organizations will work with local businesses and neighborhood stakeholders to create a common vision, identify tourism asset development opportunities, and develop marketing and other promotional materials.
Technology Training (Up to four awards at $10,000 each):
• Organizations will partner with expert technology trainers to build the skills of business owners and help to drive sales, increase efficiencies, and/or result in a decrease in operational costs.
• Technology training may include accounting, online sales and marketing tools, and social media strategies.
Business Corridor Makeover (Up to four awards at $15,000 each):
• Organizations will identify business corridors in their neighborhoods that are prepared to commit time and financial investment to support improvements.
• Each business will receive a customized consultation identifying ways to improve store window and sales floor designs, as well as signage and façade improvements.
• Participating businesses will be required to commit a minimum of $2,000 to implement recommendations from their consultation.
“Chicago’s neighborhoods present an opportunity to further leverage Chicago as a visitor destination, and act as a driver for repeat visitation and extending the length of stay,” said Melissa Cherry, vice president of Cultural Tourism and Neighborhoods at Choose Chicago.
For more information, visit www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/bacp.html.
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