K-Town Business Centre, launched with the support of State capital dollars for minority-owned businesses, set to create 100 jobs and economic growth for the community
CHICAGO – Governor JB Pritzker and Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton today joined the Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity (DCEO), The Will Group (TWG), and members of the community for a ribbon cutting ceremony to highlight the completed phase one buildout on the new K-Town Business Development Centre in the North Lawndale neighborhood.
The Will Group is the recipient of a $500,000 grant from Governor Pritzker and DCEO's Office of Minority Economic Empowerment (OMEE), providing capital support to help minority-owned businesses expand. These grant funds were utilized to develop a new 60,000 SF manufacturing, distribution, and warehousing facility, with plans in place for a second phase of the project. Overall, the project will yield a $20 million investment and 100 local jobs.
"In our state and across the nation, Black- and brown-owned businesses have too often been cut out of key resources for building and growing a business. In Illinois, we're beginning to put an end to those long-standing harms. Our OMEE grant program exists to equip more minority-owned firms with resources to grow or establish their enterprises," said Governor JB Pritzker. "Last year, I'm proud to say we delivered over $11 million to 31 organizations – like The Will Group – across the state, opening the door for a ripple effect of new investments and jobs. And today, I'm proud to announce that my administration will be opening another round of OMEE capital grant applications later this summer – new investments in under resourced communities made possible by our transformational Rebuild Illinois capital program."
"In America, Black- and Brown-owned businesses have faced systemic discrimination and been cut out of the process for far too long when it comes to raising capital and having access to resources," said Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton. "Our administration is laser-focused on closing inequity gaps and eliminating barriers to economic empowerment in our most vulnerable communities. That's why Illinois is among the best in the nation in providing grants and resources, including the creation of the Community Reinvestment Act to increase economic opportunity for Black and Brown businesses. This manufacturing venture is an example of resources at work and creates a great opportunity that will benefit our West Side communities."
TWG's recently opened industrial business complex, located at 4647 West Polk Street, brings a significant investment to the community. The new K-Town Business Centre sits on a 3.3-acre parcel of land that long sat vacant, and is now home to a mixed-use facility for manufacturing, distribution and warehousing – specializing in contract manufacturing, utility supplies and the LED fixtures used for the City of Chicago's Smart Lighting program - one of the largest street lighting modernization programs in the country.
"As a company, our top priority is to build strategic partnerships, expand advanced manufacturing and in turn create pathways to well-paying jobs for local residents," said TWG Chairman and Founder Stephen Davis. "Thanks to investments by the State of Illinois, we have reached an important milestone in our efforts to expand at the K Town Business Centre in North Lawndale, with our investments unlocking new jobs, benefits and safe working conditions for residents in the area. With additional phases of this project on the horizon, we look forward to increasing opportunities for small businesses and workers alike and setting into motion a well-deserved investment for this community."
TWG, an African American, family-owned business based in Chicago, was a recipient of $500,000 grant through the State of Illinois' Office of Minority Economic Empowerment (OMEE) grant program. The OMEE grant program was created to equip more minority-owned firms, who traditionally face barriers to accessing capital, with resources to grow or establish new businesses and business incubators. Last year, over $11 million in OMEE Grants were distributed to 31 businesses and business incubators across the state.
"Under Governor Pritzker's leadership, Illinois is committed to making investments that support a more inclusive economy for our residents and businesses," said DCEO Acting Director Sylvia Garcia. "Businesses owned by people of color are an essential part of our economy and can provide families and communities with a pathway to economic prosperity, which is why through the OMEE grant program, we prioritized investments to support over 30 minority owned businesses with capital needed to advance and grow their business. We congratulate The Will Group today on an exciting milestone for their North Lawndale facility that is expanding innovative manufacturing in the region and helping boost investment and well-paying jobs in the community."
Completion of the first installment of the business complex paves the way to an identical footprint in Phase 2 of the project, which will be located adjacent to the building on Polk Street, with work set to begin in 2022. Overall, the buildout of this facility is expected to create 143 construction FTE jobs across both phases of development. In addition to OMEE grant funding, the State of Illinois provided The Will Group with a $1.5 million loan through the Advantage Illinois program to aid in construction costs during Phase 1 of the project.
"As Alderman, native and resident of 24th Ward, I am grateful for the opportunity to bring jobs to The North Lawndale community," said Ald. Michael Scott. "It is my hope that our efforts to bring jobs to Chicago's west side will be joined by others seeking to revitalize this vital Chicago community."
"We are excited to announce the opening of the K-Town Centre, a multi-tenant warehouse and manufacturing center in the heart of North Lawndale – set to bring meaningful employment and investment to the West Side of Chicago," said Sen. Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago). "Thank you, Governor Pritzker and Lt. Governor Stratton, for investing in this anchor project that spurs continued economic growth in the state."
"Projects like the K-Town Business Centre ensures that business owners have equitable access to state-of-art commercial space in a lot that has sat vacant for decades," said State Rep. Jawaharial Omar Williams (D-Chicago). "Thank you to Governor Pritzker for taking the lead in supporting minority owned business investments and vital job creation in the 10th District and beyond."
To help local residents benefit from the economic opportunities created by this project, TWG is working to recruit employees directly from the North Lawndale neighborhood, partnering with an array of private and public sector partners including ComEd Construct Program, META24, Metropolitan Family Services, the Safer Foundation, St. Sabina's Strong Futures Program and HACIA Works. Ensuring diversity and representation in its workforce has been a priority for The Will Group – whose own workforce is currently over 80 percent diverse. With more than 20 residents to date already hired for work at the K Town complex, The Will Group continues to welcome returning citizens for job training offered through the company's second chance initiative.
For over 35 years, The Will Group has been supplying light fixtures and ancillary electrical products throughout the nation. The company has grown exponentially and has expanded its portfolio of innovative and comprehensive services to include lighting, electrical and infrastructure supply, manufacturing, field engineering, quality inspections, warehousing, procurement, MRO distribution, and construction management.
The Illinois Office of Minority Economic Empowerment (OMEE) is committed to providing minorities, women, persons with disabilities, and veteran-owned small businesses and entrepreneurs across the state with equitable access to opportunities and resources. The OMEE aims to create an inclusive business ecosystem for communities that have traditionally faced systemic barriers to entry and growth. This investment spurs local economic development in underserved areas resulting in a revitalized and thriving Illinois economy.