LOGAN SQUARE — An assistance program for small-business owners in Logan Square and parts of Avondale has gotten a $1 million boost in TIF funds from the city.
Business owners in the Fullerton/Milwaukee TIF district are once again eligible for reimbursement grants for construction and renovation projects through the city's Small Business Improvement Fund, which pays up to $150,000 for anything from tuckpointing to strucural improvements that accommodate disabled employees or customers.
Logan Square Chamber of Commerce executive director Paul Levin said it's been a couple years since the Fullerton/Milwaukee district last ran out of money for the program.
"We've had that program in our TIF for a long time, but the money was all used up, and they [the city] hadn't refilled it, which is a very unfortunate state of affairs," said Levin. "Then finally, they moved the money."
These new funds are available to anyone in the TIF district, which stretches from Pulaski Road to Western Avenue along Milwaukee Avenue and also includes portions of Fullerton and Armitage avenues extending west from Milwaukee Avenue.
The exact district map can be found here.
Though the maximum amount given is $150,000 for industrial property or $100,000 for commercial property, Levin said the average grant amounts to about $38,000.
"It's a reimbursement program," he said. "There's no front money, so the projects have to be completed before any money goes to that individual."
The program originally just matched funds, covering up to 50 percent of the total costs of the projects, but now grants may cover up to 75 percent, Levin said. That is a big help to people trying to get started or expand their businesses.
"It was instrumental," said Jill Bishop, owner of the language school Multilingual Connections. "I was a home-based business prior to that, and so the only way I could move into this space was to have this grant."
When Bishop found her original Avondale location in the fall of 2009, it was nothing but "four walls and a cement floor," as she describes it. With the help of the grant, she was able to build out to create classrooms, offices and a kitchen, along with handicapped-accessible bathrooms.
About a year later, she received another grant when she was ready to expand and received about $50,000 in total from the fund.
"As a small-business owner that is a tremendous, tremendous amount," she said.
Other neighborhood recipients include popular Avondale restaurant Friendship Chinese, Half Italian Grocer and Deli in Logan Square and the Dill Pickle Food Co-op.
"It was a huge, huge help," said Dill Pickle general manager Sharon Hoyer, who, though she wasn't manager when the co-op opened, knows the grant helped quite a bit.
"It helped us open without any loans at all — just with member funding," she said.
Now with all the new bars and restaurants opening along Milwaukee Avenue, Levin suspects there will be more applicants than ever for grants and warned business owners to act quickly.
"Do it now, because I think there'll be more applications than there is money," he said.
More information about the Fullerton/Milwaukee TIF district's Small Business Improvement Fund can be found by contacting the Logan Square Chamber of Commerce.