The Small Business Improvement Fund (SBIF) provides grant funding for permanent building improvements and repairs across the city.
Offered by the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) to tenants and owners of industrial and commercial properties, SBIF grants are funded by Tax Increment Financing (TIF) revenues in designated TIF districts citywide.
Program participants can receive grants to cover between 30 percent and 90 percent of improvement costs, with a maximum grant of $150,000 for commercial properties and $250,000 for industrial properties. The grants do not have to be repaid.
Grant applications and allocations are administered by SomerCor on behalf of the City of Chicago.
Since paying its first grant in 2001 through March 2023, the SBIF program has provided nearly $118 million to more than 1,570 small businesses across Chicago.
Program participants are as diverse as Chicago itself. Among hundreds of others, SBIF grants have supported a Bridgeport sausage factory, a free legal clinic in South Chicago, and an HVAC operator in West Pullman. The program helped the world's largest industrial coffee grinder grow its capacity in Little Village, and it supported the expansion of Chicago's first distillery since prohibition in Ravenswood.
To help support the program's goals, on-the-ground “delegate agency” organizations like chambers of commerce and business advocacy groups help their members to access and utilize the funding.
In December 2020, City Council approved the most ambitious infusion of capital into the program in its two-decade history. More than $60 million was approved to be made available in 60 different TIF districts through 2023. Nearly $26 million of that investment targeted INVEST South/West neighborhoods, $11 million of which will be reserved for the initiative's 12 priority corridors.
The plan also included program enhancements including increasing the maximum grant amount to $150,000 for commercial projects and $250,000 for industrial projects, reimbursing commercial projects up to 90% of project costs, and much more robust program marketing. Staff, partners, ward offices and even grant recipients typically refer to the program simply by its acronym: SBIF — pronounced "spiff."
The investment and program improvements were so successful, that since that initial investment, Council has approved replenishment of an additional $54 million in 50 TIFs to meet the strong demand.