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6 lessons from JPMorgan Chase’s $40 Million Investment in Chicago’s South and West Sides
Walking through Chicago’s South and West sides today, you can hear the sound of neighborhoods rebuilding. New construction is underway, homes are being remodeled and small businesses are opening. While communities still struggle with disinvestment, concentrated poverty, and associated gun violence, many Chicagoans are using all of the available resources to better their situation, community and city.
In 2017, JPMorgan Chase, one of Chicago’s long-term business partners, made an initial $40 million, three-year pledge to expand access to opportunity on Chicago’s South and West sides.
Here’s what it looks like in practice:
Like many young people, South side native Floyd Wilson did not have a clear plan for his life. “After graduating high school, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do,” he says. “There were things I wanted to try, but it never really worked out.” That changed when Floyd was at his church one day and heard about BSD Industries, a social enterprise funded by a $500,000 investment from JPMorgan Chase. “I feel like God just opened that door for me.”
That was in 2015. Fast-forward to 2018, and Floyd, now 26, is a member of the first cohort to graduate from BSD’s workforce training program, certified in autoCAD, industrial and electrical controls, and robotics programming. He’s also excited to put those skills to work at his new job at automotive parts supplier Flex-N-Gate. “Robotics programming awakened something in me I never knew I had,” Wilson says. “I can honestly say BSD completely changed my life.”
Vernita Johnson, owner of DLV Printing Service in Chicago’s South Austin neighborhood, knows access to capital is critical for entrepreneurs. “It’s make-or-break,” Johnson says. “You need the equipment and the working capital. Bridging that gap is central.” Johnson also knows first-hand that bridging the capital gap can be challenging, particularly early on when a business is not able to demonstrate the profitability or collateral to meet traditional lending requirements.
Enter Accion Chicago, a nonprofit lender and one of JPMorgan Chase’s partners in the Chicago Entrepreneurs of Color Fund (EOC). Thanks to financing from Accion, Johnson has been able to invest in equipment and a new facility, which in turn has allowed her to take on larger orders, grow her staff and surpass $500,000 in annual revenue. With the launch of the EOC Fund, many more entrepreneurs on the South and West sides will be able to similarly unleash their entrepreneurial potential.
In Roseland on Chicago’s South side, Aaron Mallory is revitalizing the neighborhood where he was born — and helping at-risk teens in the process. GRO Community, the nonprofit he started, acquires and rehabilitates abandoned properties. In parallel, GRO operates a hands-on training program that teaches local teens about construction and real estate investment. Mallory’s work has been made possible, in part, by financing from the Chicago Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) Collaborative, a partnership of three CDFIs supported by JPMorgan Chase.
The South and West sides are transforming because of collaborations between local businesses, nonprofits, city government and the grit of hard-working Chicagoans. With change on the horizon, JPMorgan Chase is reflecting on lessons learned and reaffirmed through work in the South and West sides.
- Develop early/foundational work skills for today’s labor market.
- Build skills mastery over time—summer to summer or year-round.
- Earn credentials or college credits.
- Connect to career pathway opportunities, especially linked to high-growth sectors.
- Access long-term career opportunities, including jobs in the private sector.
- Address barriers that may limit postsecondary options, especially for vulnerable youth populations.
“Our investment is beginning to make a real impact in people's lives thanks to the tireless, on-the-ground work of our nonprofit partners,” said Whitney Smith, head of midwest philanthropy for JPMorgan Chase. “Each person who has graduated from a training program and landed a new job, and each entrepreneur who now has financing to expand her business, is the true metric of success.”
Interested in learning more about JPMorgan Chase’s work in cities? Discover the AdvancingCities initiative.