The chamber's board of directors voted unanimously last month to decline grant funding from the city beginning next year. The organization previously relied heavily on an economic development delegate agency grant to pay for basic operations, officials said. However, during the past several years, it has reached annual revenue and reserve levels that will allow it to operate independently.
"We're going to be, to my knowledge, the only independent chamber in the city of Chicago," Northcenter Chamber Executive Director Garrett FitzGerald said last week, while making the announcement. "It's been a goal for a while. We think it's the right thing to do to stand on our own two feet, primarily because we can."
The chamber will still accept money to maintain its Special Service Area, FitzGerald noted, but freely offered grants will no longer flow in its direction.
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Ward 47 Alderman Ameya Pawar applauded the decision, saying that many organizations like it and nonprofits around the city are more cash-strapped.
“I’m happy to see the Northcenter Chamber find ways to be sustainable in the current climate without reducing their commitment to the community," he said, in a written statement.
Chamber representatives said they know the money they'll be saving the city is just a "drop in the bucket," but every little bit counts.
"We don't think it's the right thing to do to take city money when we don't have to," FitzGerald said.
The projected budget shortfall for 2013 is $369 million, according to the Annual Financial Analysis 2012 distributed by the City of Chicago Clerk’s Office. The same report projects that deficits could reach $655 million in 2014 and $855 million in 2015.
“Times are tough for a lot of people and businesses right now,” FitzGerald said. We feel it’s our duty, both ethically and morally to relieve any taxpayer burden we can.”