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BMO helps support workforce development in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood

Low education and high unemployment rates have negatively impacted Chicago’s Austin community for decades, creating a need for career development training. This week, to address this disparity, BMO joined the United Way of Metro Chicago and the Westside Health Authority to break ground on a new workforce training facility, the Aspire Center for Workforce Innovation. When complete, the Aspire Center will provide space for job readiness training, workforce training and entrepreneurial skill development providers and will create 50 jobs over five years to promote economic growth in the community.

The development of the Aspire Center is part of INVEST South/West initiative, a partnership between the City of Chicago and the United Way’s Neighborhood Network, designed to reduce economic disparities and create sustainable opportunities in disadvantaged neighborhoods across Chicagoland. BMO announced a $10 million donation to the initiative in 2019.  

The Aspire Center will be located in a former elementary school with the space repurposed to serve as a community hub for youth and adult residents and will include a job development incubator, state-of-the-art early learning center and health and recreation center, which will be open to all Austin residents. In addition to our donation, BMO New Markets Fund, the bank’s community development entity, allocated $5 million in New Market Tax Credits to support the project. Enacted in 2000, the New Markets Tax Credit was created to stimulate economic growth in low-income communities that lack access to capital needed to support and grow businesses, create jobs and sustain healthy local economies.  

“BMO has a strong history of investing in the communities it serves, which is why we were thrilled to become a cornerstone investor in the United Way Neighborhood Networks 10 years ago. The groundbreaking of the Aspire Center, led by Westside Health Authority and Austin Coming Together, alongside the recent openings of the new BUILD community hub and North Austin Community Center, is another proof point that neighborhood-led transformation can work. BMO remains committed to growing the good for the Austin neighborhood and the city of Chicago.” 

– Darrel Hackett
U.S. President of Wealth Management, BMO

As a tenant of the Aspire Center, BMO will also serve the community by providing residents with access to coaching services, financial education and employment support. Opening in late 2024, BMO will have a consultative space inside the center that will serve as an area to meet community members and host financial education and counseling sessions. The full-service branch along with the retail portion of the development is scheduled to open in 2027.  

Our partnership with the United Way and the Aspire Center will give BMO the opportunity to help remove barriers to economic equity in the Austin community for years to come.  

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot

Darrel Hackett, BMO (second from right) Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Chicago and representatives from Westside Housing Authority and Austin Coming Together
Darrel Hackett, BMO (second from right), Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Chicago and representatives from Westside Housing Authority and Austin Coming Together

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