News & Events

Kellogg School, Urban League announce historic joint venture

By Adrienne Murrill

2/16/2007 - The Kellogg School’s Levy Institute for Entrepreneurial Practice is breaking ground on a historic partnership with the Chicago Urban League.

Under the supervision of the Levy Institute’s director, Steven Rogers, the Gordon and Llura Gund Family Professor of Entrepreneurship, Kellogg is partnering with BP America Inc. and the Urban League to create a center on Chicago’s South Side that will offer guidance to African-American entrepreneurs. “ProjectNext,” the title of this endeavor, will lead minority business owners on how to expand their businesses and gain access to capital and contracts.

“It’s the first time Kellogg or any other business school has been so intimately involved in a topic of this stature, which is to increase the success rates of African-American entrepreneurship,” Rogers said.

Urban League CEO Cheryle Jackson (NU ’88) approached Rogers about the partnership when she became executive director of the chapter. This partnership comes at a time when the Chicago Urban League, founded in 1916, and chapters nationwide are shifting their focus toward economic development and away from social service programs, mostly because there are many more resources today that assist with those services.

The business center, expected to open by 2009, will assist African-American-owned companies with annual revenues between $100,000 and $1 million. According to the Urban League, more than 50 percent of African-American-owned businesses in Chicago are retail, construction and professional-services companies, and the project will focus on these sectors. BP America Inc. announced it will provide $6.2 million during three years to fund the project and the Illinois Finance Authority has pledged $1 million toward the business center.

Before the building is completed, the Levy Center plans to host an individual who will be hired by the Urban League later this year. This person will report to Rogers and be responsible for assisting with the design and implementation of “projectNext. The goal is to begin assisting entrepreneurs by the summer.

Rogers explained that not only did Kellogg School’s reputation in entrepreneurship precede it, but Jackson also knew of Rogers’ personal dedication to the growth of minority businesses.

“African-American entrepreneurs create jobs for other minorities; all the empirical research shows that to be a fact,” Rogers said, noting the beneficial impact this has on overall minority employment. “If we can help with the increase in number of African-American entrepreneurs and the improvement of their development, we can help them create more jobs,” said Rogers. “People who have jobs are self-sufficient, and self-sufficient people live in healthy neighborhoods.”

This circularity will benefit not only African-Americans, but minorities and the United States as a whole, he added.