Small Business Legislative Breakfast and Networking Event

CHICAGO (Pilsen) — On Monday, June 13, ESDC hosted the first Small Business Legislative Breakfast and second networking event of the year at the ESDC office. The first of these events took place on March 28 with Choose Chicago. From small business owners and representatives from the Pilsen Industrial Corridor to Jesús “Chuy” García, Congressman 4th District, Senator Celina Villanueva, State Rep. Theresa Mah, and Commissioner Alma E. Anaya, the elected officials came to support ESDC’s initiatives and strengthen the relationship between our business districts and our legislators.


It was the goal of a roundtable discussion organized by Salvador Cerna, Community Outreach Director to gather our business community and elected officials to understand that it is not necessary to be in the hall of Congress, in our State’s Capital, or Board of Commissioners to advocate for economic funding and resources for our community.


“It was a great partnership meeting,” said Cerna. “It’s important to show that we’re building relationships and getting the backing of our key legislators on important issues that affect our  businesses and community.”


Over 30 small businesses from Halsted St, 18th St., and Cermak Ave. to the Industrial Corridor came to hear first-hand from elected officials.


“We look forward to having them back,” says Alex Esparza, Executive Director and CEO at  ESDC. “The first step is hearing what our elected officials are doing behind the scenes to help small businesses through the pandemic and into the future on a government level.”


“As a communal organization, we need to work together to push for legislation that serves and benefits the community,” says Jesús “Chuy” García, Congressman of Illinois’s 4th Congressional District, as he speaks about straightening the relations between him, his office and the local business community to bring more resources and funding from all levels of government


Location and language are indicators of missed COVID-19 funding opportunities and the impacts it has caused on communities, like Pilsen.


García also mentioned a new bill that would aid minority groups and women for established and new businesses, as well as efforts for startups, to work towards government contracts.


The 2nd District had one of the highest rates of grants received for the area that ultimately aided small businesses,” State Rep. Theresa Mah told the group. “At the state level, we collaborated and advocated with ESDC for the “Back 2 Business” grant.”


ESDC was the 3rd highest contributing organization to assist local small businesses within the Pilsen ward to distribute the PPP grant during COVID-19, according to Representative Mah.


Mah stressed the importance of giving feedback to representatives that hold their best interest.


“Language as a barrier can prevent many individuals and businesses from accessing resources that can aid them,” says Celina Villanueva,


State Senator, 11th District. “Communities and businesses experience unique circumstances, and understanding these unique needs and barriers are ways to combat resource

inequalities to be able to assist them.”


Villanueva also added that when COVID-19 started and the first testing rounds began, SSNs were being asked in the paperwork. Senator Villanueva, along with other city officials and representatives, fought to remove this requirement as it put many residents in unsettling situations where they preferred not to test and risk their families. The representatives took this issue to Governor Pritzker, which understood the challenges for many undocumented individuals.


“Our office is involved with immigrant community outreach and working to break stigmas and barriers,” Alma E. Anaya, Cook County Commissioner, 7th District told the audience. “We understand the importance of developing independence and wealth among many immigrant communities.”


Anaya also said that their office saw a discrepancy in applications where small businesses from suburban areas filed at higher rates and only saw a 13% rate of Latino applicants. Currently, they’re working on investing $33 million in communities that help with resources and partnerships in technology, grant applications, capacity building, and other aid.

Small businesses raised their voices to share local initiatives and projects with the legislators, their concerns over the lack of resources, as well as funding to support such programs.


If you’re a business owner and interested in attending the next ESDC’s Breakfast and Networking Event Tuesday, August 9th, please contact Salvador Cerna at or call 312-733-2287 ext. 2.