CHICAGO, IL – Q: What do 20 local businesses, 250 recipients of workforce training, 35 retailers and 75 local business owners all have in common? A: The University of Chicago – Chicago’s south side’s largest employer who is committed to both hiring and buying locally. UChicago Local, in partnership with ministry and business incubator Sunshine Enterprises, hosted its one-year anniversary last night at the Black Cinema House (through the Rebuild Foundation), located at 7200 S. Kimbark Avenue.
The anniversary celebration – which was attended by City Treasurer Kurt Summers and 5th Ward Alderman Leslie A. Hairston, who are also supportive partners – lauded the success of local businesses and workforce training to applicants, giving the economy a much-needed shot in the arm.
The University of Chicago Charter School Chief Executive Officer, Director Shayne Evans was also in attendance, as well as representative partners from Centers for New Horizons and New York-based Brand Excitement organizations.
Result of the University of Chicago’s partnership influence
The University of Chicago is the largest employer on the South Side of Chicago, with nearly 6,000 staff employees of the University and medical center living within seven zip codes near its campus. Since 2014:
- 20 businesses received UChicago Local capacity building training;
- 250 people received workforce training development through university partnerships;
- 35+ retailers were featured on First Weekend at the start of each academic quarter – encouraging local spending by the university community; and
- 75 local business owners attended free workshops offered by business diversity and other university partners.
UChicago Medicine spent over $400,000 for products and services through local suppliers. One-hundred-plus businesses have since received support in marketing of their goods and services to university students, faculty and staff.
Led by the Office of Civic Engagement, UChicago Local advances the university’s commitment to the economic development of neighboring areas by providing businesses and residents with employment training and connections that help them work more closely with the University and the University of Chicago Medicine. UChicago also supports Mid-South Side businesses via procurement of services within the University and UChicago Medicine communities.
UChicago Local engages in local hiring by supporting workforce development agencies in their efforts to match mid-South Side residents with jobs and prepare them for employment.
Political and star power
City Treasurer Summers – 150 days into his current position, and who is also the son of a small business owner – gave an impassioned speech about Chicago being careful not to overlook the small business person, citing their contribution to the workforce numbers, no matter how small.
“I don’t have a problem rolling up my sleeves, pants legs, whatever to work with residents of communities to do what needs to be done. We’ve heard their concerns and we’ve vowed to work with them in creating just this type of partnership to (support) them in keeping this city on-track and above the recession.”
Summers cited that within the last quarter, half of the new jobs within the seven new job sectors created were courtesy of small businesses. “…Being done by institutions like the University of Chicago to step up people within their communities looking for work who can actually get placement.”
Summers vowed his office would do its part to ensure the success of the UChicago Local initiative in its goals of creating wealth and providing services. Alderman Hairston, whose father was also a small business owner, said times have changed in the relationships between lenders and small business owners.
“Back in the day, you had (entities like) the Hyde Park Bank to back up the small business person. You really don’t have that, now.”
However, the UChicago Local initiative gives her hope. “I believe in what we’re doing here. We’re on our way to greatness.”
Former Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Wendell Davis was also on-hand to show support and gave a keynote speech in support of small businesses in Chicago.
Sunshine: more than just a ministry
Sunshine Enterprises – an initiative of Sunshine Gospel Ministries – offers a 12-week business incubation program and Executive Director Joel Hamernick projects the launch of yet another 200 new business by 2016.
“We know what our communities need,” Hamernick said during his speech, citing the Community Business Academy, which is the Sunshine Enterprises program that UChicago is now supporting. It is replicated from a model created by Rising Tide Capital in New Jersey. The program offers three fundamental types of capital: social, knowledge and financial.
“We have a replica of a model that can create jobs and with an institutional commitment to local economic success, let’s not miss this opportunity.”
Sunshine Gospel Ministries and Sunshine Enterprises Executive Director Joel Hamernick
Sunshine Enterprises success story Beatrice Johnston
Business and employment partnership programs offered
Through a referral partnership with 741 Collaborative Partnership – a nonprofit collaborative of 10 workforce development agencies — local residents working with any of 741’s partner agencies are apprised to employment opportunities at the University, the Medical Center, as well as surrounding businesses.
Training for Local Workforce Development Agencies
- Workforce development practitioners are provided with training and resources that prepare them to better serve mid-South Side job seekers through the Chicago Jobs Council program: 27 hours of coursework for job developers and case managers at community-based organizations that support mid-South Side residents.
Local Business Support
- UChicago Local supports mid-South Side businesses through an array of efforts, including procurement.
- In partnership with Chicago Anchors for a Strong Economy (CASE), UChicago Local provides training to help local companies grow their business to the next level by building capacity in core business skills (e.g., talent management, finance, strategy and marketing.)
Business Showcase Events
- The University hosts or sponsors regular forums for mid-South Side businesses to showcase their products and services to UChicago and UChicago Medicine staff, faculty and students.
For more information on seeking employment or training through any of UChicago Local’s programs, visit www.uchicago.edu/community/economic_impact/uchicago_local . If you have a small business in need of assistance or looking to take your business to the next level through Sunshine’s business incubation program, visit www.sunshinecdc.net .