Grants from Southland Economic Transformation Fund to fund logistics training, housing assistance in south suburbs

By Mike Nolan

A technology incubator and an employer assisted housing program are among recipients of more than $400,000 in grants from the Southland Economic Transformation Fund.

The 10 grant recipients were announced recently by the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association and the Southland Development Authority.

The grants were funded through support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and managed by the mayors and managers association, which received more than 60 grant proposals.

A grant of $60,000 will go to Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago that plans to use the money to increase employer assisted housing by working with south suburban governments and chambers of commerce, according to its grant proposal.

Two grants totaling $100,000 will go to Governors State University in University Park and the Chicago Southland Economic Development Corp. The grants will assist the university’s Supply Chain Innovation Center and Business Incubator.

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Established a year ago, the center was recently awarded a grant of nearly $579,000 by the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

One grant, of $50,000, will assist with employee certificate training in supply chain and logistics, which the center has identified as a growing need as more warehouse and distribution development has sprouted in the south suburbs.

A second grant of $50,000 is intended to help the business incubator increase representation of minority and female entrepreneurs in areas related to manufacturing, transportation, distribution and logistics, according to the grant application description.

A grant of just under $50,000 for the Chicago Southland Food Processing Innovation Center in Park Forest is intended to establish a coprocessing space to support minority owned food and beverage business owners.

The grant would expand the existing Poppin’ Plates culinary incubator program to support other minority-owned firms with research and development and bringing their products to market, according to the grant application.

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The Spanish Coalition for Housing will receive a grant of $50,000 for housing counseling and outreach.

The coalition intends to partner with Moraine Valley Community College, Prairie State College, South Suburban College and the Chicago Southland Economic Development Corp. to offer services such as pre- and post-purchase counseling and financial education, according to the grant application.

Chicago Heights-based Respond Now will get a $40,000 grant for foreclosure prevention efforts, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic in which household incomes may have declined.

According to Respond Now, which works to prevent homelessness among at-risk south suburban residents, the area that includes Chicago Heights and Park Forest has a high number of households that are vulnerable to foreclosure due to the pandemic.

The South Suburban Land Bank & Development Authority is getting a grant of $50,000 to acquire vacant and abandoned residential and commercial properties to bring them back on the market and tax rolls.

The authority is creating a revolving fund to pay for costs associated with property acquisitions including obtaining legal title and marketing properties, which would be repaid to the fund after the properties are sold.