DeKALB – DeKalb city leaders this week took action in a plan they said they hope will give aspiring social entrepreneurs reason to dream big.
The DeKalb City Council awarded $125,000 in community development block grant funds to Opportunity DeKalb to aid the organization’s efforts to launch an intensive business training program along with year-round consulting support.
Opportunity DeKalb was incorporated in February 2020 as a not-for-profit entity that aims to work collaboratively with residents and stakeholders to revitalize the Annie Glidden North neighborhood in accordance with goals adopted by the City Council in 2018.
The City Council action commits grant funding to assist Opportunity DeKalb with startup costs for launching what organizers called an intensive business training program coupled with year-round consulting support.
One such outcome of the city’s collaboration with Opportunity DeKalb and Northern Illinois University is the Annie Glidden North Revitalization Plan of 2018.
Areas of opportunity for entrepreneurs – who live and work in the neighborhood and across the community, and who have limited time and means to pursue college-level courses about the economics of starting a business – were identified, city documents show.
The 12-week course, once implemented, will be modeled after a program established by Rising Tide Capital, a New Jersey-based nonprofit organization dedicated to helping social entrepreneurs grow their own businesses, city documents show.
Coursework will strive to emphasize the fundamentals, such as budgeting, marketing, bookkeeping and finance.
Second Ward Alderwoman Barb Larson said the council has been working hard to revitalize the Annie Glidden North neighborhood, and she believes this program signifies the city taking a leap forward for the good of the community.
“I think we’ve tried very hard from the council to get AGN stabilized so that growth can truly happen, and I think some of the first steps we’ve taken to get it to be a safer place to live,” Larson said. “But now this type of a project and a program, it means so many of these people have not had the opportunities. They’re hardworking, they’re smart. They just didn’t get the opportunities, and this kind of a program is exactly the step up that they need.
“Just throwing money isn’t it. You have to come up with a program that this money funds. That’s what I’m so excited about. I’m all in.”
Apart from the city’s contribution, Opportunity DeKalb has applied for a grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity along with pledges from Mortenson, a local church and a locally establish bank, city documents show. Glover said the organization won’t know until early 2024 whether the IDCEO has awarded the grant.
The council’s action does not commit the city to recurring spending allocations, officials said.
City leaders are shifting funds set aside for undefined street improvements in the Annie Glidden North neighborhood to make a grant allocation to DeKalb Opportunity possible, city documents show.
Opportunity DeKalb administrator Chad Glover thanked the city for its support of the initiative.
“A lot of progress has been made, and we have a lot of work left to do,” Glover said.
Mayor Cohen Barnes commended Glover for championing the cause.
“I personally am excited about us being a partner in this in the form of providing some resources at the perfect time for the perfect opportunity,” Barnes said.
This story was updated at 4:28 p.m. Dec. 4, 2023 to correct an earlier version which misstated the status of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity grant that Opportunity DeKalb has applied for.