New HIRE360 small-business development center receives $3 million investment
The state and federal funds for the $7 million site on the Near South Side will help women and people of color to scale up their businesses.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker gathered alongside Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi and local business leaders Monday to celebrate a $3 million investment for a new Training and Business Development Center on the Near South Side that will support the growth of small businesses throughout Chicago.
It’s the next big step for HIRE360, which since 2019 has worked to help underrepresented populations, such as women and people of color, to scale up their businesses and find work and apprenticeship opportunities in construction and hospitality sectors.
It hopes to make those industries more inclusive, and to increase female and minority participation in important development projects. According to Bob Reiter, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor, $100 billion in mega construction projects will begin in Chicago over the next 15 years.
HIRE360’s efforts have been remote since its founding just before the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the new funding, they will get a chance to expand their work in-person.
The new 40,000-square-foot facility, at 2520 S. State St., will include a culinary training center, conference rooms, a playroom for children of business owners and workers, and more. It is set to open later this year. The project received $2 million in state funding and $1 million in federal funding. The total cost is $7 million.
HIRE360 Board Chair and Executive Vice President of Construction at Related Midwest Donald Biernacki said the new space will allow HIRE360 to operate on a whole new level.
“When you consider just the numbers of, what I consider, success stories that happened when we were doing all this virtually and during a pandemic, it’s amazing,” Biernacki said. “I step back and say holy cow, just wait until we are really up and running.”
One of those success stories is Adrian Mobley, founder and CEO of Air & Wellness Safety Training. Mobley started her business in 2014. She began by providing safety consulting and training services. HIRE360, she said, helped her to expand into other service areas, like fencing and caulking, and to grow her business financially.
Her first year in business, Mobley made a profit of just $5,000. In 2021, that number was $3 million.
Mobley said through HIRE360 she was able to get approved for a loan when she was running very low on money. She was connected with mentors who answered her questions when she needed help. She received back-office assistance with accounting, and learned how to identify a good contract.
Mobley has even hired four employees that HIRE360 connected her to, and plans to hire more.
“I’ve been able to hire people from my neighborhood and different neighborhoods who look like me, who was unable to get into unions or have good paying jobs or benefits,” Mobley, said. “I’ve been able to provide them training and jobs, and most of them have been with me since conception, so it’s been phenomenal.”
David Castrejon, a HIRE360 candidate and apprentice with IBEW Local 134 Union, also found support. Castrejon said HIRE360 provided him with test prep and course materials so that he could be better prepared for the aptitude test he would need to take to get into electrical apprenticeship programs.
It’s his third week as an apprentice, and Castrejon said he’s learning a lot. He gets up at 4 a.m. each morning to get to class on time.
“I want to at some point work on my own house,” Castrejon said. “And I’m good on carpentry skills, but I lack electrical.”