State Officials Speak to Chamber to Help Local Businesses Grow

State officials dropped into a Cicero Chamber of Commerce meeting on Jan. 29 to outline several programs geared towards local businesses to help them be more successful.

Manuel Lopez, regional economic development manager of the state’s Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity, Joe McKeown from “Team RED,” and Pedro Pineda from the Illinois Central Management Office (CMS) spoke at the event organized by Town President Larry Dominick and co-sponsored by state Rep. Lisa Hernandez.

“One program that is very helpful for small businesses provides capital investment loans that offer lower interest rates than what you might obtain from your local bank,” Lopez told the 45 business owners and representatives who attended the meeting. “All you have to do is reach out to us and bring your company overview, a description of how many jobs you have, and a projection of your capital investment data.”

Pineda explained that the state also provides certifications to businesses, large and small, to certify that they are women-, minority-, veteran- and disabled-owned: categories that allow the state to provide additional resources and support. Businesses owned by these certified groups may qualify for contract set-asides.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have enough veteran-owned businesses certified with the state. If you are a veteran-owned business, you should reach out to us and get certified to qualify for these contracts,” Pineda said. “The state has set-asides specifically to help small businesses to succeed and to stay in their community. It’s only for small businesses.”

McKeown added that, in most cases, the state could significantly reduce the interest rate that a business would pay for a loan.

“We can also help businesses when they need to meet with a bank to obtain assistance,” McKeown said.

They explained that the state also provides grants, although most are for infrastructure improvements.

The state provides a wide range of programs to help new businesses launch, provide certifications for Food Service Sanitation Managers, register to become a vendor, and more. Business owners can visit the state’s website at Illinois.gov/business for more information.

Ismael Vargas, business license director, also addressed the attendees explaining services and support the town provides.

“It’s important that you reach out to us if you need assistance or information. We are there to help you,” Vargas said.

The Cicero Chamber of Commerce launched in November with support from Dominick and the business license department.

On March 31, the chamber will host a job fair to connect businesses that have job openings and who are hiring with residents who are seeking employment. Companies can meet and speak with community residents who are encouraged to bring their resumes.

For more information on chamber activities, visit the Chamber website at www.CiceroChamberofCommerce.com. There, businesses can register online to receive information on all of the chamber’s free programs and services.