FHLBank Chicago’s Community First® Accelerate Grants provide capital for 172 small business owners in Illinois and Wisconsin
During the height of the holiday season, and directly following Small Business Saturday, 172 businesses in Illinois and Wisconsin learned that they would receive a $25,000 grant to support their business. The Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago (FHLBank Chicago) awarded $4.3 million in total grants to deserving businesses to provide economic and community development throughout Illinois and Wisconsin – more than quadrupling our investment in Community First Accelerate Grants for Small Business (Accelerate Grants) year over year.
Small businesses are facing challenges with growing or enhancing their operations due to surging borrowing costs in a high-interest rate environment. In response to this need, we awarded Accelerate Grants for a second year to support a variety of purposes, including purchase or improvement of property, equipment, workforce development, and technology. FHLBank Chicago member banks, credit unions, insurance companies and community development financial institutions submitted grant applications on behalf of eligible small businesses with which they have had a business relationship for at least 12 months.
“Small businesses in our members’ communities provide valuable products and services that contribute to local economies,” said Katie Naftzger, Community Investment Officer, FHLBank Chicago. “Accelerate Grants provide an opportunity for our members to strengthen their partnerships with local small businesses, thereby supporting economic growth and job opportunities and strengthening the fabric of the rural, urban, and small town communities served by our members.”
More than three-quarters of the small businesses that received a 2023 Accelerate Grant operate a storefront or plan to establish one and many intend to use the funds to purchase or improve property. Many of these businesses provide essential services in their communities like Highland State Bank customer, Alphabet Academy childcare center, located in Highland, Wisconsin, an area with limited childcare options and many families relying on subsidies to afford childcare. “We are using the funds to insulate and install vinyl siding to our building, said Michelle Shemak, Director, Alphabet Academy. “This will add value to our property, help us become more economically sustainable, create a more welcoming façade, and keep our children warmer during the winter months and cooler during the summer months.”
Bubbly Dynamics, a sustainable urban industrial developer and 2023 Accelerate grantee via FHLBank Chicago member Amalgamated Bank of Chicago, recently converted a vacant meat packaging plant located in the Back of the Yards neighborhood on Chicago’s south side into a multi-tenant facility that leases spaces to start-ups specializing in innovative research techniques for organic food production. The Plant provides jobs to low-and-moderate income individuals and reduces the high-cost market entry barrier for 20 small businesses. “We have plans underway to build out parking lot with stormwater catchment features,” said John Edel, Founder and Director of The Plant, a Bubbly Dynamics project. “This grant will allow us to implement enhanced sustainable design features like permeable pavers at low-intensity vehicular zones for auto and bike parking, and functional landscaping to attract pollinators.”