NAPERVILLE, Ill. – October 18, 2021 – Nicor Gas announces Northern Illinois Community Initiatives, a foundation created to spearhead bold economic development strategies and to stimulate investment in real estate development, workforce development and entrepreneurship in severely under-resourced communities it serves in Northern Illinois. NICI and Nicor Gas will partner with local organizations and business and civic leaders to support revitalization projects that would benefit from community investment, financial assistance, mobilizing resources and advocacy.
The foundation will target Northern Illinois communities that are most in need and lack the level of outside investment and philanthropic support Chicago neighborhoods can access. NICI will bring together local stakeholders and investors to develop and support economic development strategies that have the potential for transformative impact and regional gains.
NICI is launching with $20 million provided by an affiliate of Southern Company Gas, Nicor Gas’ parent company. With an additional $250,000 grant from the Southern Company Gas Foundation, NICI is awarding impact grants to bridge funding gaps for local revitalization projects. Among the first grant recipients are UChicago Medicine Ingalls Memorial to produce a feasibility study for the revitalization of the Wood Street corridor in Harvey to address systemic health problems in communities of color; and the Chicago Southland Economic Development Corporation to help develop 4343 Ascending House, an e-commerce hub and business incubator located at 4343 Lincoln Highway in Matteson, Illinois. Ascending House will include a learning center with development programs, human capital training, access to venture capital investments and bridge grants to diverse entrepreneurs.
“While COVID-19 exacerbated economic distress in many communities, the communities NICI will support were already in a state of emergency before the pandemic and are in need of a bold and forward-thinking economic response now,” said John O. Hudson III, NICI founder and president and CEO of Nicor Gas. “At Nicor Gas, we understand that our infrastructure and programs serve as the foundation for growth and economic vitality in our region. NICI builds on that foundation to empower underserved communities to move forward from surviving to thriving.”
The number of people living below the poverty level in suburban Cook County grew by 77% since 2000, according to the 2018 Community Needs Assessment report completed by the Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County. The data shows that poverty has steadily moved outside the city of Chicago into other parts of Northern Illinois, but services and resources have not followed. Access to job opportunities with higher wages and affordable housing were among the top 10 on a list of needs identified by residents, according to the report.
“Throughout Northern Illinois, there are communities in need of a locally driven, coalition-supported economic response,” said Tovah McCord, executive director of NICI. “We understand that communities must have buy-in from residents and local officials, as well as the infrastructure to spur business development and innovation to grow economies of scale.”
Learn more about NICI’s mission to build a stronger region by investing in bold economic development initiatives that help communities grow and thrive at nici-il.org.
About Nicor Gas is one of four natural gas distribution companies of Southern Company Gas, a wholly owned subsidiary of Southern Company (NYSE: SO). Nicor Gas serves more than 2.2 million customers in a service territory that encompasses most of the northern third of Illinois, excluding the city of Chicago. For more information, visit nicorgas.com.
Southern Company Gas is a wholly owned subsidiary of Atlanta-based Southern Company (NYSE:SO), America’s premier energy company. Southern Company Gas serves approximately 4.3 million natural gas utility customers through its regulated distribution companies in four states with approximately 666,000 retail customers through its companies that market natural gas. Other nonutility businesses include investments in interstate pipelines and ownership and operation of natural gas storage facilities. For more information, visit southerncompanygas.com.
Northern Illinois Community Initiatives (NICI) was founded by Nicor Gas to bolster investment in under-resourced communities hardest hit by deindustrialization, systemic and environmental racism, and other mitigating factors that affect job creation, wealth-building, healthcare and education. By forming strategic alliances and investing in bold economic development initiatives that help communities thrive, NICI accelerates actionable solutions toward building a more vibrant and equitable regional economy. For more information, visit www.nici-il.org.
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