The Northcenter Chamber of Commerce announced at their monthly member luncheon today plans to forgo an annual City of Chicago grant made to every chamber in the city for 2013. Chamber leadership believse it would make them the first chamber to refuse the city grant, which was worth about $20,000 to Northcenter in 2012.
“We think it’s the right thing to do, and we need to do it now,” said Chamber Executive Director Garrett FitzGerald at today’s luncheon, held at Pitchfork, 2922 W. Irving Park Rd.
In 2012, the Chicago Department of Housing and Economic Development (DHED) provided $3.2 million for 87 contracts with chambers of commerce, development corporations, and related civic organizations, according to DHED spokesman Pete Strazzafbosco.
The Northcenter Chamber is one of Chicago’s largest, with an operating budget of about $350,000, according to Chamber president Simon Stein, but many chambers rely on the annual city grants, known as “delegate agency” grants, to stay in operation. The Lincoln Square-Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce has said 30% of their past budgets comes from city grants. The Chicago City Council has been regularly threatening to eliminate delegate agency grants, so to some extent, the Northcenter Chamber maybe only accelerating the inevitable.
“As president, one of my goals was to make the Chamber financially solvent, and we’ve done that,” Stein told Center Square Journal today. “We as a group feel it is not responsible to take city money if we don’t need it, and we’re doing that.
Stein also said the cost of administering the grant is relatively high for the amount received. About 75% of the grant money received, goes to just administering it, rather than actual programs, said Stein.
FitzGerald emphasized to his members today that the Northcenter Chamber will continue to conduct independent audits, however it is unclear if once the Chamber stops receiving city grant funding if it will be subject to Freedom of Information Act inquiries. While the Northcenter Chamber has not been investigated for wrong-doing, other local chambers, like the Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce, have been shutdown due to alleged financial improprieties.