* I was reading some stories about Gov. Rauner’s visit to what’s being billed as a business incubator on Chicago’s South Side yesterday and kinda went down a rabbit hole for what seemed like forever.
Let’s start with CBS 2…
Rev. Corey Brooks and Project HOOD have opened a new Woodlawn community center focused on helping people get ahead financially.
In donated space at a shuttered Walgreens store at 63rd and King Drive, Brooks unveiled the Project HOOD Leadership and Economic Opportunity Center.
The facility essentially is a South Side business incubator. Brooks said it was created without government funds, but Gov. Bruce Rauner was on hand to help cut the ribbon on Wednesday, and he applauded the private donors who helped fund the center. […]
The governor said the state will help with job-training grants for some of the Project HOOD partners.
“Where the government has played a role, and always does; part of the charter of our Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is to provide grant money for job training, especially for skilled trades, like construction, etc. That’s going on here, and some of the private businesses that are doing the job training also received some Department of Commerce resources,” he said.
So, it’s privately funded, but it’ll have government money. As the governor says, that’s how these things tend to work. But this caught my eye yesterday…
Also, Brooks endorsed Gov. Rauner in 2014, which isn’t mentioned in the piece.
* But the political connections were right up front in the Sun-Times story written before the event…
Politically connected South Side pastor Corey Brooks this week opens a new training center in a beleaguered area of rising Woodlawn, which will be housed in a shuttered Walgreens at 63rd and King Drive that has been donated to his nonprofit.
If his political connections help his new incubator succeed, then fine. Jobs and businesses are in extremely short supply in that part of the city.
* But about that building. It wasn’t actually donated. The remaining lease was donated…
When Walgreens closed the store in summer 2016 as part of a downsizing that closed stores across the country, Brooks was able to get Walgreens to donate the remaining four years of its lease on the building to him.
* This is all part of reviving Brooks’ long-term goal of opening a community center. Remember his “Walk Across America” in 2012? Back then, he wanted to raise $15 million for the community center, but he only raised about $500K. His new goal is far higher…
Brooks’ Project HOOD on Wednesday opened the new center inside a shuttered Walgreens at 6330 S. Martin Luther King Drive, which is to be a stepping stone towards a larger goal of opening a permanent $23 million community center in Woodlawn. […]
Brooks has a four-year lease on the former Walgreens, which is supposed to be enough time to raise the $23 million necessary to build the new community center debt free. But Brooks admitted the conversion of the Walgreens has drained much of the nonprofit’s resources and it’s a long climb up to hit that fundraising goal. […]
Rauner said he had not personally contributed any funds to Project HOOD, but dropped $40 in a donation jar on his way out the door.
Way to go, Big Bucks Bruce!
* Since Brooks admitted that the incubator drained his group’s resources, I’m curious how far he really is away from meeting his fundraising goal…
He declined to say how far he was toward raising the $23 million needed to build the center, but said he still expects to start construction in 2018 so the nonprofit can move in when its lease ends in the Walgreens space.
“Our goal is to pay cash for our facility so we’re not in any debt,” Brooks said.
The permanent center will be a major expansion for the nonprofit physically, with 60,000 square feet of new space, and Brooks said the programming will need to be ready to scale up quickly.
* But, for now, he has some lofty goals for the incubator…
Project H.O.O.D. will house six components for innovation — construction certification and training, a business and entrepreneur hub, a Women’s Entrepreneur Center, youth mentoring, a media program and a trainee-run restaurant and café. Programs at the facility will range from carpentry to journalism to financial literacy. […]
The building has been completely renovated and provides a space where entrepreneurs and contractors can grow their businesses. Meetings can be held in colorful cubicles. Special rooms allow for training in construction and food management.
The biggest impact may be that big organizations and corporations will visit to let small business owners know how they can secure contracts and make money. For example, on Wednesday, representatives from the Illinois Tollway were at the center.
So, the Tollway was there, too?
* Back to the Sun-Times…
He’ll be joined Wednesday by Rauner, who gave Brooks a post-election $31,426-a-year appointment with the Illinois Tollway board, good through May 2019.
* One more tidbit…
Other identified donors include construction trades firms, a car dealership and Republican politician Jim Oberweis’ ice cream firm.