NORTH LAWNDALE — A light manufacturing center has opened in the K-Town neighborhood, and it could bring up to 100 jobs to the area.
The K-Town Business Centre, which opened Monday, is a 60,000-square-foot manufacturing, distribution and warehouse facility at 4647 W. Polk St. The new center was planned by the Will Group, a manufacturing company that specializes in electrical products and lighting.
Before relocating to K-Town, the Will Group’s manufacturing headquarters was in a rented building at 5261 W. Harrison St. in Austin. The group owns the new facility and has room to grow.
The $20 million manufacturing center was built in the neighborhood’s industrial corridor on 3.3 acres of land that had been vacant for decades.
“We really hope that our investment will have a positive contribution to the area and that it will create an ecosystem in which businesses are attracted to the area and can better serve the community,” Joshua Davis, president of the Will Group, said.
The company’s new manufacturing headquarters was built with a $500,000 grant from the state’s commerce department. The funding came from a grant program dedicated to providing capital for minority-owned businesses to help them expand. A $1.5 million loan through the Advantage Illinois program also helped fund the buildout.
“In our state and across the nation, Black and Brown-owned businesses have too often been cut out of key resources for building and growing a business. In Illinois, we’re beginning to put an end to those long-standing harms,” Governor J.B. Pritzker said at the ribbon-cutting event for the new center.
The state government can strategically invest in communities that historically haven’t gotten their fair share of public dollars, Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton said. The goal is to undo legacies of systemic racism that have deprived people of color economically, she said.
“Our administration is laser-focused on closing inequity gaps and eliminating barriers to economic empowerment in our most vulnerable communities,” Stratton said.
State funds helped offset extensive environmental remediation at the site that cost at least $700,000, Davis said.
The expansion of the company will help create up to 100 jobs, Davis said, and the company is committed to hiring locally. At least 20 employees at the new center are local residents, he said. At the previous location, most workers were based on the West or Southwest sides of the city, Davis said.
The Will Group is working with partners, including Metropolitan Family Services, St. Sabina’s Strong Futures program and the Safer Foundation, to create a workforce development pipeline that will make sure Lawndale residents are the first to benefit from career opportunities at the center.
“We hope that we can play a small part in encouraging other people to invest in the community in a way that allows the community to thrive,” Davis said.
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