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We Rise Together’s first year of grantmaking has unlocked $291 million in investment in Black and Latinx communities in Chicago and Cook County

New grants approved this fall will support brick-and-mortar development and services to strengthen small businesses   

(Chicago …) With its latest round of grants, We Rise Together: For an Equitable & Just Recovery has invested nearly $30 million in target neighborhoods in the past year, unlocking $291 million in new development projects. In Black and Latinx communities that have faced decades of disinvestment and financial devastation during the pandemic, these development projects strengthen their communities and the entire region.

In September, nearly $7 million in grants were awarded to support four new brick-and-mortar developments and five organizations working to grow Black and Latinx businesses. The grants will bring new investment, jobs, and services to Black and Latinx communities in Chicago and the south suburbs of Cook County.

“The Black and Latinx communities we are investing with are on track to see new and rehabilitated buildings delivering services and amenities on par with our cities’ economically advantaged neighborhoods,” said Gloria Castillo, We Rise Together director. “As Chicago continues to bounce back from the pandemic, we are excited to invest in innovative projects that signal to residents that they can earn a living in their community that supports their families and that encourages local entrepreneurs to establish and grow their businesses.”  

Recognizing that one new building or business alone cannot transform a neighborhood’s economy, We Rise Together provides community developers and nonprofits with grant funding to advance three key strategies in each target community: investing in disinvested neighborhoods, strengthening Black and Latinx businesses, and increasing quality, resilient employment. 

The Austin community exemplifies how We Rise Together has been working in partnership with community leaders to realize their community’s vision, as reflected in the “Austin Forward” Quality of Life plan. We Rise Together invested in the North Austin Community Center, a 150,000 square foot facility that will host amateur sports and youth services, bringing some 250,000 people each year to Austin. We Rise Together has also invested in two additional brick-and-mortar developments in Austin—Aspire Center and the BUILD campus—and provided grant funding to the Northwest Side CDC to support small businesses in the area to take advantage of the new market created by the visitors these developments will attract. A grant to Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership will bring additional workforce development services to Austin.

“The investment from We Rise Together provided us with the liquidity our project needed to begin construction,” said Andraya Yousfi, Managing Director of Partnerships and Development, By the Hand Club For Kids, a partner in the North Austin Community Center. “We’re thrilled to open our doors this winter, bringing new services to young people and their families, job opportunities, and new visitors into our community.”

Almost $2 million in grants were awarded in September to the following projects to support Black and Latinx businesses:

  • HACIA’s Executive Fellows program is launching its cohort-based business development curriculum to grow and scale contractors of color.
  • mHub is launching the Catalyze Initiative by funding deep partnerships in communities of color and ongoing support for entrepreneurs developing hardtech products.
  • Greater Chatham Initiative is working to strengthen the restaurant ecosystem in Chatham and its six surrounding communities through storytelling, building the “Soul-Delivered” platform, and offering nutritional evaluation and labeling.
  • Northwest Side CDC is launching the CRECER small business incubator in Belmont Cragin, including programming provided for the businesses in the incubator.
  • Women’s Business Development Center is expanding the ScaleHigher curriculum into the Chicago market and supporting participating businesses in learning about and accessing digital tools to scale their businesses.

In addition, $4.9 million in grants were awarded in September to support the following brick-and-mortar developments:

  • BUILD, Austin: The development of the new BUILD campus to support young people in Austin, including affordable space available for rent to partner nonprofits that will provide wraparound services to the youth and their families.
  • Green Era, Auburn Gresham: Development of the new Anaerobic Digestor portion of the Green Era Renewable Energy and Urban Agriculture Campus in Auburn Gresham, a facility that will convert food waste into renewable energy, compost, and fertilizer.
  • The Desk/South Shore Chamber of Commerce, South Shore: Rehabilitation of a dilapidated property as the new offices of the South Shore Chamber of Commerce, along with four businesses, including the Artisans’ Collective, supported by the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago.
  • United Yards, Back of the Yards: A retail development on 47th Street that will be run by and eventually owned by a group of local entrepreneurs

About We Rise Together 
We Rise Together: For an Equitable & Just Recovery is a collaborative of corporate and philanthropic funders making focused investments with and in long-disinvested Black and Latinx neighborhoods hit hardest by the pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed how chronic disinvestment exacerbated health and economic risks and left communities of color uniquely vulnerable. In response, this five-year initiative, which made its first grants in September 2021, is developing a model for community reinvestment at scale, by making grants, transforming business practices, and changing policies to support investment in disinvested neighborhoods, strengthen Black and Latinx businesses, and increase quality, resilient employment.

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