What We Do
The West Town Chamber of Commerce fosters community and economic development by empowering businesses with information and technical resources, and providing networking opportunities, area wide marketing, and other valuable programming.
“The Chamber serves as a channel through which Members can cultivate a diverse, symbiotic,and growth-oriented community”
Kara Hughes Salgado, Executive Director
West Town Chamber of Commerce Service Area
The Chamber’s official service area is Division Street to Hubbard, Halsted Street to Kedzie Avenue. Dues-paying business Members within that service area are eligible to vote on neighborhood issues, Chamber committees, and Board elections. Business Members located outside of the Chamber service area receive all of the same perks of Membership except the right to vote.
What Does the West Town Chamber Do for Local Businesses?
Neighborhood Business Development Center (NBDC) Services
The WTCC is a Neighborhood Business Development Center (NBDC) with an annual Place-Based Generalist grant and work plan from the City of Chicago. The Chamber works with the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) to provide small business support services, technical assistance, referrals, and more. The Chamber's NBDC business support services are available to entrepreneurs and small business owners as they start-up and grow. Click here for more information on the NBDC program.
The WTCC as an NBDC assists entrepreneurs, potential small business owners, and local Chamber members to navigate City licensing and permitting requirements, provides zoning information, public way use and signage permit resources, and referrals for access to capital. The WTCC may serve as a liaison between a business and the proper City department or official.
The Chamber keeps business resource information such as contacts for the City and State, community demographics, financial resources, and a list of commercial spaces available in West Town on this website in an effort to retain existing businesses and recruit new businesses to move to West Town Chicago.
Opportunity for Involvement
The WTCC involves the local business members and holds regular Board and Committee meetings to assess the needs of the business community and create programs, events, stance letters, and initiatives with the direction of the local business community. All Chamber programs are initiated and steered by local business representative volunteers.
Networking & Educational Opportunities
The WTCC holds a variety of networking events and informational seminars throughout the year connecting members with local experts in various fields with topics including: business licensing and zoning information, financial resources and management, technology and marketing strategies, legal and accounting counsel, employer and hiring resources, and most recently, strategies and programs to recover from the economic strain of COVID. Topics, days, times, and locations vary. The meetings are geared to assist local businesses to succeed through lead generation, education, and contact and technical resource sharing. Free City resources, programs, and classes offered by the City’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) are shared in the WTCC monthly Chamber Member E-Newsletters.
The WTCC releases two monthly newsletters: the "What's Happening in West Town" newsletter is a promotional summary of neighborhood happenings and business events, and the other newsletter is for Chamber Members announcing Chamber meetings and programs.
The Chamber is a voice for the local business community representing the WTCC Members' stance on issues relating to commerce, zoning, licensing, and commercial development to City and State officials. The WTCC has a Commercial Development Committee which reviews proposals for new developments and zoning changes in the district, then presents recommendations to the Board of Directors who vote to write stance letters to the appropriate local Aldermen and City departments. The Chamber works closely with local Aldermanic offices to seek support for economic development activities.
Social Media, Marketing, and Public Relations
The Chamber operates @WestTownChicago and many of the individual Chamber produced special events are also on Facebook and Twitter: @DoDivisionStreetFest, @WestFestChicago, @DancingInTheStreetsChicago @WestTownArtWalk. Chamber Member business events, specials, local news, plus details on Chamber meetings and special events are shared via social media outlets.
WTCC works with a professional PR firm to secure publicity for the member businesses and Chamber special events in local, national, and international publications; and on radio and television. The PR firm manages the West Town Facebook and Twitter accounts and promotes local business specials, news, and happenings.
Public Art & Beautification Programs
As the service provider for the West Town SSA, the Chamber manages the decorative street pole banner program which identifies and brands the area, and installs annual holiday decorations. The SSA funds and the WTCC manages a street maintenance crew that picks up garbage, takes down posters, and reports graffiti 3-5 days a week (above and beyond what the city provides). The SSA also funds power washing of sidewalks, landscaping of public areas, snow removal on sidewalks, and coordinates a robust public art program.
SSA Rebate Programs & Grants
The West Town SSA maintains multiple rebate grants, including Facade, Graffiti Abatement, Security, Public Art, and Website & Online Marketplace Upgrade grants. These grants fund a variety of property and business support programs. The Chamber offers a streamlined process with no application fee and the applications are available online here. Properties must be located in West Town SSA boundaries to qualify. The WTCC also extended the Website & Online Marketplace Upgrade grants to Chamber Member businesses located within the Chamber service area (not just within SSA boundaries).
The WTCC has a Commercial Development Committee which reviews proposals for new developments and zoning changes in the district, then presents recommendations to the Board of Directors whom vote to write stance letters to the appropriate local Aldermen and City departments. Available commercial spaces are listed on the Chamber's website to encourage new businesses to move in to the West Town area. All of the chamber programs and policies are geared to promote positive economic and commercial development.
The West Town SSA Commission, WTCC Board of Directors, and a panel of community stakeholders, created the We Are West Town: 5 Year Master Plan to aid the entire community in district planning. It includes a "What We Can Do" section, which are the different areas the Chamber can work on supporting development in the district, a "What You Can Do" section, so residents, business owners, and property owners know how to get involved, and a "What They Can Do" section to suggest and encourage the City and City officials to support certain local programming.
The Chamber collaborates and works with neighboring business associations such as the Wicker Park & Bucktown Chamber of Commerce (WPBCC) and the Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago (ICNC). The Chamber offers a 50% discount on dues to businesses that are also members of a neighboring organization. The WTCC also works with other local non-profits, schools, community and park groups to promote programs and provide opportunities for collaborations and fundraising.
Special Events & Fundraisers
The WTCC produces a number of fundraisers and special events in house throughout the year to promote the West Town commercial districts, to foster economic development, and provide area wide marketing. Funds raised at these events supplement the Chamber’s operating budget, fund Chamber programs and services, and proceeds also benefit local schools, parks, and other local non-profits.
The Chamber supports the local community and donates proceeds from special events when possible to partnering local schools and other local non-profits. In 2019 the WTCC donated over $66,000 generated by street festival fundraisers to local non-profits and school PTOs.
West Town Pop Up Project
The WTCC created the West Town Pop Up Project in order to provide an accessible way for businesses to explore the market of physical retail before making a large investment in a permanent retail storefront. Access to a short-term temporary retail space allows brands, products, makers, artists, and home-based businesses and entrepreneurs the ability to meet their current customers and gain new ones. The mission of the Pop Up Project is to provide lessees with short term access to a physical retail storefront space in order to experience the West Town Chicago marketplace, while also encouraging retail business development along the West Town Chicago commercial corridors.