Home » Our Impact » Impact Areas » Economic Vitality

Enrich the vibrancy of West Side communities by investing in people and local businesses.

Due to the current and historical effects of racial discrimination such as redlining, predatory lending practices, and restrictive covenants, West Side residents have not had the same access to economic advancement as other Chicago residents. A lack of local jobs and opportunities for economic advancement have inhibited residents from retaining money in their local communities. Despite these challenges, West Side neighborhoods also have a strong and vital small business presence, demonstrating great opportunity for economic vitality in the area. Many locally-founded non-profit and community-based organizations work to fill these economic gaps as well. Because we know that economic stability and positive health outcomes are inextricably linked, many of our initiatives focus on the economic wellbeing of the west side.

WSU promotes economic vitality through strengthening local hiring, purchasing, and investments in West Side workers and businesses.
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anchor institution employees are participating in the Medical Assistant pathways program
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West Side business owners and non-profit staff attended information sessions to learn about applying for WSUs small business and non-profit grants

WSU tracks the progress of our initiatives; we also track changes in community-level data to monitor progress towards our overarching goals and inform our actions and projects on the ground. We selected 3 Economic metrics from our comprehensive measurement framework to highlight key areas of focus. For more information about our comprehensive framework, please click here.

Our 2019 West Side United commitments include implementing the following over the next three years:

  • Tripling commitment to Impact Investing reaching $7.5 million.
  • Increasing WSU institutions’ local hiring by 15% (~3,500 new West Side hires by 2021).
  • Increasing local spend dollars by 20% (~100 Million invested in West Side communities).
  • Expanding Small Business Grant Pool to $500,000 per year leveraging new external funders.
  • Expanding Employee Professional Pathway Programs to include 3 more career paths.
In our metrics dashboard, we are tracking:
Household income is strikingly different between West Side communities and the loop. Median household income in the loop ranges from 1.5 to 4.5 times greater than the household income in West Side neighborhoods. This measure shows the median household income in dollars adjusted for inflation.
Unemployment demonstrates the great need for employment opportunities among West Side residents, with unemployment rates nearing 20% in some West Side neighborhoods. This measure shows the percent of residents age 16 and older in the civilian labor force who are unemployed.
The poverty rate illustrates the pervasiveness of the income and wealth gap across West Side neighborhoods. This measure shows the percent of all residents who are living below the federal poverty level.
Rachael Wilson, WSU Program Manager
Rachael Wilson
Program Manager, Economic Vitality
To learn more about supporting economic vitality in our 10 communities, please email Rachael at: rwilson@westsideunited.org

Nonprofit Grantees for 2019

  • Bethel New Life Foundation
  • Children’s Home & Aid
  • Erie Neighborhood House
  • Farm on Ogden
  • Garfield Park Community Council
  • New Moms, Inc.
  • North Lawndale Employment Network
  • Project Exploration
  • United For Better Living, Inc.

Small Business Grantees for 2019

  • 6978 Soul Food
  • A Taste of Nostalgia
  • AD HOC PROPERTY SERVICES, LLC
  • All The Details Cleaning
  • Amazing Edibles
  • Back of the Yards Coffee LLC, DBA Pilsen Coffeehouse
  • BLK Building Solutions LLC
  • Chef’s on the Go’Go LLC
  • Colemans barbque 2
  • DermaPhilia
  • DLV Printing Service, Inc.
  • FIIT CITY
  • It Takes A Village
  • La Chilangueda
  • LiveEquipd LLC
  • Madison Ethos, Inc.
  • McCanna Videography
  • Metaphrasis Language and Cultural Solutions, LLC
  • Rose and Jaad Construction INC
  • Salsedo Press Inc
  • Smooth and Social Roots
  • Strickland Brothers Bbq & Jerk
  • Terra Bites
  • The Corner Store Deli
  • The Lighthouse Cafe LLC
  • Thomas Mechanical Corporation
  • Twenty Eleven Construction Inc
  • US Veterans Security, LLC
  • Worthy One Designs