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Businesses receive Macarthur Foundation Grants

The Greater Chatham Initiative (GCI), a collaboration aimed at rejuvenating four of Chicago’s south side neighborhoods, has been awarded a $500,000 grant by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

The funds, part of $11.6 million awarded by the Foundation, will help spur economic development in low-income communities —Chatham, Auburn Gresham, Greater Grand Crossing and Avalon Park — by attracting and growing local businesses to create jobs for residents and attract and retain homeowners.

“We are deeply indebted to the MacArthur Foundation for its generous gift,” said Nedra Sims-Fears, Greater Chatham Initiative executive director. “For metropolitan Chicago to prosper, it needs Greater Chatham to be healthy, vital and to continue its engagement in vigorous regional economic activity. This award will help us push that work forward.”

LIFE ORGANICS PROVIDES customer service during Greater Chatham Initiative’s ‘Shop Local’ launch. Greater Chatham Initiative Executive Director Nedra Fears visits to support local businesses.

Greater Chatham boasts almost $1 billion in annual sales from its Business Services and Headquarters, Transportation, Distribution and Logistics, Fabricated Metals, Food Manufacturing and Business-to-Consumer clusters. Our goal,” says Executive Director Sims- Fears, “is to enhance these communities as places of opportunity.”

Chatham, one of the oldest, most stable and storied African-American neighborhoods, has been affected by the mortgage foreclosure crisis, an aging homeowner population and the in-migration of a lower-income, lower-skilled population looking for higher-quality housing options and better quality of life. In response, the GCI has developed what it describes as “…a new approach to comprehensive local development, with the expectations that as Greater Chatham based businesses grow and prosper they can employ local residents and create wealth for the next economy.”

The first six-months of this ‘new approach’ was marked by a number of achievements:

  • Awarding of the MacArthur Foundation grant
  • We have a place to unfreeze the housing market in Greater Chatham
  • Improving the 79th Street Corridor between Greenwood Avenue and State Street
  • Assembling 39 Chatham and Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood businesses to participate in the national Small Business Saturday program
  • Working toward decreasing youth violence
  • Creating a next-economy civic infrastructure that connects community residents and businesses with regional stakeholders in fluid, flexible and innovative networks.

The Greater Chatham Initiative group has a well-researched 90-page Plan that spells out the 16 strategies needed to achieve system-wide changes in Greater Chatham.

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