Austin business owners seeking support and resources will be able to leverage a range of tools offered by the Austin Chamber of Commerce and West Side Forward, an economic development organization.  

During a Zoom meeting hosted by the two organizations on Oct. 29, Tina Augustus, a member of the chamber’s executive board, said that the organization is putting together a public database of Austin businesses. She added that local business owners who can’t afford Zoom plans can ask the chamber for assistance in setting up Zoom meetings.  

Ed Coleman, West Side Forward’s president and CEO, invited businesses who need help navigating grants and loans to reach out to the nonprofit. 

“Send an e-mail, ask for one-on-one appointments and our business support experts will contact you, where you can elaborate about what your needs and your current issues might be,” he said.

Coleman said even before the COVID-19 pandemic started, many Austin businesses were struggling, which is why the chamber and his nonprofit teamed up to provide solutions. 

“The West Side and the community of Austin has been disinvested in for decades,” Coleman said. “The businesses could benefit from whatever support that they can get, to not only survive, but to thrive. That’s on an ongoing basis, 

“Now, I’ll just say that 2020 has been a challenging year that has really challenged the West Side communities, and Austin especially. And if Austin businesses needed support in 2019, then they definitely need support in 2020.”

Members of several Cook County government bodies and local nonprofits tuned into the meeting. Jose Abonce, a community organizer for the Austin Coming Together coalition, said that ACT’s economic development commission, which is charged with figuring out how to implement the economic development aspects of the Austin Quality of Life plan, has been doing its own brainstorming on how to help Austin businesses. 

“We’re actively providing technical assistance [to local businesses] and we’re actively leveraging relations to connect them to resources that are needed,” he said. 

Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi said that his office created a data portal and encouraged property owners to utilize it in order to get the most up-to-date information about their properties.  

“I think it’s going to help every building in Austin, because I think it’s going to cause valuation to go down,” Kaegi said. “It will save you money in time of trouble, so look for that.”

Both Augustus and Coleman said that they planned to make the online meetings monthly, and that more businesses will join in to share their concerns and suggestions next time around. 

For the most up-to-day Austin Chamber of Commerce information, visit