CHICAGO – Today, the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) announced the launch of the Chicago Business Center (CBC) Program. Under this new initiative, eight regional Chicago Business Centers have begun operating as hubs to provide business licensing assistance and other resources for small businesses in communities throughout the City. The eight Centers, which are open for virtual consultations with entrepreneurs today, are part of Mayor Lightfoot’s commitment to fill the current gap of local business resources, particularly in historically underserved locations and populations. As part of the program, the City is also partnering with corporate providers who will provide their professional and sector specific supports to the community through a webinar series.

 

“Kickstarting our economy starts by supporting small business owners in our communities,” said BACP Commissioner Rosa Escareno. “The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact in every neighborhood and it is clear that we need do everything we can to support our businesses and provide critical assistance to entrepreneurs. These Chicago Business Centers are the next step in our ongoing commitment to our businesses and the communities they serve.”

 

The eight regional Chicago Business Centers will provide resources for entrepreneurs to support neighborhood business growth and will complement the services provided by BACP out of the primary Chicago Business Center located at City Hall. The regional CBCs will focus in particular on underserved locations and populations, including low-income communities, people of color, people with limited English proficiency and businesses in the South and West Sides. The following organizations are serving as CBCs and are available for virtual consultations with entrepreneurs today:

 

  • Allies for Community Business
  • Austin African-American Business Network Association
  • Calumet Area Industrial Commission
  • Greater Southwest Development Corporation
  • North River Commission
  • Puerto Rican Cultural Center
  • Quad Communities Development Corporation
  • Uptown United

 

“For far too long, business owners of color have had to overcome an extra set of challenges on their path to success,” said Kenya Merritt, Chicago’s Chief Small Business Officer. “Under Mayor Lightfoot’s leadership we are committed to reversing this disinvestment, and I am proud to launch the Chicago Business Centers into our communities that need them the most.”

 

CBC’s can help start-up entrepreneurs and existing business owners with the following topics:

 

  • Licensing Support: CBCs will assist throughout the licensing processes by helping with online license applications and preparing entrepreneurs for engagement with BACP Licensing Consultants
  • Financing for Underrepresented Populations: CBCs are knowledgeable in financial resources to provide support to entrepreneurs that have had a historic lack of access to banks and capital networks
  • Professional Services, including Sector-Specific Guidance: CBCs will provide or connect entrepreneurs to specialized, sector-specific resources

 

To learn more about the Chicago Business Center program and to set up a consultation with your local CBC, visit Chicago.gov/CBC.

 

“The Puerto Rican Cultural Center is dedicated to ensuring a thriving business ecosystem in Humboldt Park and the surrounding area,” said Jose Lopez, Executive Director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center. “As a Chicago Business Center we are thrilled to expand our role in the community and make sure that every entrepreneur has the resources they need to launch and grow their business.”

 

As part of the Chicago Business Center program, the City of Chicago has partnered with corporate specialists to provide support to entrepreneurs. This partnership allows prospective business owners to learn directly from experts on a variety of important topics for their business through the Corporate Partner Workshop Series. Webinars take place on Tuesday and Thursday at 12:00pm and feature guest speakers from organizations including Facebook, BMO Harris and Northwestern Pritzker School of Law. Interested participants can register and learn more at Chicago.gov/CBC.

 

“Facebook has made it our mission to champion small business recovery by developing new initiatives, free tools, and educational resources that can be used to adapt and pivot during these challenging times,” said Judy Toland, VP and Head of Facebook Chicago Office. “We’re excited to continue expanding our programs in Chicago like Boost with Facebook and be a partner of BACP to help entrepreneurs and small businesses throughout the area unlock their full potential.”

 

Each CBC has been trained by BACP to provide the resources needed by entrepreneurs, including licensing support. While CBCs are only open for virtual consultations at this point, they hope to open their doors for in-person meetings in the near future as the COVID-19 pandemic allows. Additionally, in the coming months, CBCs will be trained to offer help to entrepreneurs seeking support with New Economies, such as worker cooperatives, and those seeking assistance with recruited skilled and qualified labor.

 

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