West Side Forward’s community economic development efforts are targeted to assure that the development of businesses and jobs for the West Side align with the economic growth, development and jobs of the Chicago region. We believe that it is essential that the economy of the West Side move from one of high levels of government support and low levels of sustainability into the mainstream regional economy, interconnected with the economy of the larger region and producing a net export economy for the West Side.

We plan to achieve this by initiating a new era in our community development efforts through a strategy of investments that focus on:

  • Building a self-sustaining West Side economy that is connected to the larger regional economy.
  • Strengthening community capacity to benefit from investment.
  • Creating opportunities to bring individuals and families out of poverty.
  • Supporting policies and systems that help communities thrive.


West Side Forward’s primary investment areas for bringing about community transformation are Business Development and Workforce Development.

Business Development

Business Development programs are structured to help West Side businesses from start-up through growth phases. Our goal is to build a healthy business climate and create jobs for West Side residents.

Workforce Development

Workforce Development programs have rooted upon our analysis, that it will take at least 63,000 residents employed in skilled jobs making $36,000/year to move the West Side from poverty to low income. This reflects the work that must be done to reduce poverty at the individual and family level. Over ten years, this work is projected to generate about $1.2 billion in new annual wage income for the West Side.

Utilizing projections about job turn-over and retention, we believe that 116,000 job opportunities will need to be filled by trained and qualified West Side residents in the next decade to produce a steady state increase of 63,000 people employed in skilled jobs. Of these, 27,000 jobs will be for those who are currently unemployed — or newly employed jobs — and 36,000 will be for incumbent workers who upgrade their skills to move from a low wage job to a skilled job making at least $17.32/hour.

West Side residents must be prepared for jobs in the industry areas that are accessible, promise both job growth over the next decade and that pay a median wage that allows them to move out of poverty. Based upon our analysis, these industry areas include:

  • Advanced Manufacturing
  • Information Technology
  • Health Technologist & Technicians
  • Transportation Distribution & Logistics