Exelon Announces $36M Equity Fund to Support Minority-Owned Business Growth

 Racial Equity Capital Fund will provide needed capital to help minority-owned businesses create jobs and expand in communities served by Exelon’s utilities 

 Exelon’s utilities business, which owns six electric and gas utilities serving more than 10 million customers, announced today it has created a $36 million fund to support minority-owned businesses in the communities it serves. The launch of the Racial Equity Capital Fund will help minority businesses obtain capital to fuel growth and spur job opportunities in underserved and under-resourced communities often overlooked by investors and traditional funding sources. The capital fund is expected to invest in numerous businesses throughout Exelon’s service areas over the next three years with estimated loan amounts between $100,000 and $300,000 and equity investments of nearly $1 million.

The investment will be funded by Exelon’s utilities business, in partnership with the Exelon Foundation, and managed by RockCreek, a diverse-owned global investment firm, which has invested more than $7.4 billion in diverse firms since its inception. RockCreek will decide which businesses get financing, independent of other parties. The fund will be available as a resource to minority businesses, which have historically been denied bank funding in disproportionate numbers and often lack the initial equity and capital to grow and sustain their small businesses. 

“RockCreek is excited to join with Exelon’s utilities business to invest the Racial Equity Capital Fund, which will bring much-needed capital to minority businesses to help them grow, create jobs, and strengthen communities in the years and decades to come,” said Afsaneh Beschloss, founder and CEO of RockCreek.

“Too often, we see small, minority-owned businesses struggle to obtain financial backing to fuel their ideas and innovations, and that problem has only grown worse during the pandemic,” said Calvin Butler, CEO of Exelon Utilities. “Yet these same entrepreneurs are often the greatest source of economic opportunity in their communities, especially in underserved and under-resourced areas that struggle to attract major service providers, retailers and other community-sustaining employers. With this fund, we can help minority job creators overcome barriers to their growth and success and ensure that the benefits of our post-pandemic economic recovery are shared more equitably.” 

The initiative is part of Exelon’s ongoing, extensive efforts to promote equity, inclusion and economic opportunity in the diverse communities served by our six utilities, which include Atlantic City Electric, BGE, ComEd, Delmarva Power, PECO and Pepco. In addition to the investment fund, Exelon has: 

  • Spent $2.7 billion with diversity-certified suppliers in 2020 alone, growing its total spend with diversity-certified suppliers more than 41 percent from 2016-2020. ($2.4 billion from Exelon Utilities.) 
  • Launched the Community Empowerment Initiative to issue $150,000 in grants to Black-owned businesses associated with the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) in Exelon Utilities service areas. The grants will fund the design and implementation of capacity-building programs to grow minority-owned businesses in Exelon’s footprint. 
  • Initiated more than 100 workforce development programs across its six utilities and generation business, including Infrastructure Academies that create pathways into utility careers through training programs offered in partnership with other entities. To date, more than 400 program graduates have been hired internally and externally. 
  • Established a Racial Equity Task Force designed to eliminate barriers and create opportunities for Exelon employees, vendors, customers and communities. 
  • Donated more than $180 million (more than 75 percent of the company’s giving) to organizations with a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion efforts over the past five years. 

“Diversity, equity and inclusion are core values at Exelon,” Butler said. “And it’s hugely important in the communities we serve – where the change that comes from economic opportunity can’t wait another day. The Racial Equity Capital Fund is one more way we’re making good on our responsibility to help those communities become stronger and more resilient.” 

Clydes Donuts

Clyde’s Donuts Grows to Second Location, Supplies Nation with Even More Donuts

 Clyde’s Donuts, a leading supplier of donuts to in-store bakeries and foodservice providers nationwide, recently announced its expansion into a new, state-of-the art manufacturing facility in 2022. As a part of its continued growth, the company’s second facility will provide additional donut capacity and quality careers for hundreds of workers. 

“During the unprecedented last couple of years, it’s clear that consumers continue to love donuts, though a lack of supply has really strained the marketplace,” explains Kim Bickford, CEO of Clyde’s Donuts. “We are so thankful for our employees, who have worked tirelessly through these times, and our customers, who have shown great patience as we made plans to ensure many, many more delicious donuts for years to come!” 

Clyde’s plans to invest roughly $50M over the next 10 years on the second facility, including adding nearly 200 jobs to the local economy. After an exhaustive search, the company selected Glendale Heights as the location of its roughly 150,000 square-foot facility. “Our strong, central Midwest presence will allow us to continue to provide a stable supply for our loyal customers,” Kim added. The company expects the expansion to be complete in mid- to late- 2022. 

“Our focus is always on listening to our customers’ needs and supporting their continued growth. This second facility will provide ample capacity for years to come, and really position Clyde’s as an innovative donut partner to their business,” says Steve Carlson, Clyde’s Vice President of Sales. “We’re incredibly excited to be taking the lead on the future of donuts across the country!” 

Expansion is not new to Clyde’s, which celebrates its 101st Anniversary in Chicagoland this October. On the decision to expand and produce more donuts in a second facility, Kim adds, “because who wouldn’t love more donuts?!” 

To learn more about Clyde’s Donuts, and see open positions, visit clydesdonuts.com. 

Ransomware: Are you prepared? A discussion on cyber security.

Breakfast with the Chairman

DuPage County business leaders gathered on Wednesday, October 27 for an intimate, roundtable session focusing on cyber security, ransomware, and what businesses can do to protect themselves. The event was moderated by Glenn Mazade, Senior Vice President of First Midwest Bank. Glenn led a discussion with experts in the field, Chris Perreira, Vice President of Information Security Operations at First Midwest Bank and Mike Del Giudice, CISSP, CRISC, Principal, Consulting at Crowe LLP. The event took place at Innovation DuPage.

To begin, Chris and Mike explained that ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts a user or organization’s files, databases, and applications so they cannot access them until a ransom is paid. “It’s a billion-dollar industry, and it’s not going away. It’s maturing and innovating.” said Mike.

Once a hacker breaches an organization’s network they can sell that access on the dark web, which is a part of the internet that requires special software to access, allowing users to remain anonymous and untraceable.

Alternatively, hackers will often lay in wait after breaching a system, gaining a stronger foothold and looking for other vulnerabilities, until they can effectively carry out their hack and ensure that you pay.

A recent example of how malicious hackers can breach a company’s network is the attack on candy-maker Ferrara Candy Co, which disrupted operations just before Halloween.

Often, business owners may think they are too small to be breached, but according to Chris, it’s a crime of opportunity. “It’s not who, it’s what – they are after money. Malicious hackers will cast a huge net – maybe sending 100,000 emails containing malware links. And they are just looking for one person to click,” he said.

How can organizations protect themselves?

Both experts agreed that organizations need to build a resilient environment, and approach cyber security from multiple angles. This includes training and engaging your staff with best practices such as password controls and multi-factor authentication. Furthermore, organizations can engage third-party vendors for monitoring and detection.

And while cyber security insurance is available, it can be difficult to obtain. Insurance companies are paying out for cyber-attacks and therefore raising the bar for what it takes to get that insurance.

The following offers businesses guidance on conversations they should be having with IT departments and vendors.

  • Are we segmenting networks? Doing this lowers the likelihood that ransomware could impact multiple lines of business or applications. 
  • Do we have an information security awareness program? Training prepares staff to deal with the threat of phishing – and phishing is how most ransoms start.
  • Does our backup strategy match our recovery objectives? Are the backups air-gapped/offline? Have we ever attempted to recover the business from these backups? 
  • When will we have multi-factor authentication enabled for our systems? It’s gotten much easier to enforce MFA for logins – especially in the cloud system.
  • Have we replaced or augmented our anti-virus with Endpoint Detection and Response Software? EDR is more capable than traditional anti-virus – but it is not a silver bullet and it’s expensive.
  • Do we have a vulnerability management program in place? Patching alone is not enough. End of Life software MUST be replaced (Win7, Server 2012). Know your external presence because it’s the most vulnerable. 

Additionally, businesses should ask themselves: 

  • Are we spending enough on Information Security? This should be separate from the IT budget – these are two difference disciplines. 
  • Do we really understand our reliance on systems? What is the impact of them being down for a day? A week? 
  • Do we understand our dependences on third-parties? What happens when a critical third-party is hit with ransomware? Does a problem at their business create a problem at ours? 
  • Do we have cyber insurance? If not, why? If yes, does it cover ransomware? Are we compliant with the terms? 
  • If we are hit with ransomware, will we pay? Understand the impact of your answer. Do we have a plan in place to pay? What is the impact if we choose NOT to pay? 

What should you do in the event of a cyber-attack?

If you’ve become victim of a cyber-attack, contact your IT department or vendor immediately. If you have cyber security insurance, call your insurance company. And if money is involved, call the FBI.

Additional Resource

Ransomware Guide, published by Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency and the Multi-State Information Sharing & Analysis Center

 

Prairie Food Co-op Launches Naming Opportunities as Part of it’s Community Investment Program to Fund Storefront

Prairie Food Co-op raised over $1 million from the DuPage community as part of it’s nine-week spring Community Investment Program. To build upon that success, Prairie Food Co-op has added unique Naming Opportunities for local organizations, businesses, and benefactors to leave a lasting legacy as part of it’s fall Community Investment campaign.

“Maybe you’re an avid bicyclist and want to put your name on our bicycle rack. Or you’re a local brewer or wine enthusiast and would love for people to think of you when they enjoy a local brew? Consider putting your name on our Beer and Wine section! Or if you value community education and engagement, a great place for your name would be in our indoor cafe and classroom,” says Outreach Coordinator, Jerry Nash.

Prairie Food Co-op has been organizing since 2012 to open a community-owned, full service grocery store that will focus on selling local, organic, and sustainably produced food to retain and generate wealth within the local economy, employ 35-50 local residents, and spawn 10-12 new food-centric small businesses.

“Prairie Food Co-op will be a bright beautiful grocery store where anyone can shop. In addition to a weekly trip to stock your pantries, Prairie Food Co-op will be a destination for community gatherings, seasonal farmers markets, and educational workshops on healthy food preparation, meal planning, utilizing bulk foods, and more,” says Board President, Kathy Nash.

In late 2020, Prairie Food Co-op signed a 10-year lease with Holladay Properties for a 10,000 square foot building at 109 S. Main Street, Lombard, that will house the first, and only, community owned grocery store in DuPage County.  Construction on the site has begun and is expected to be complete by the end of 2022. 

With over 1500 Owners from all over DuPage County, Prairie Food Co-op invites all community members in the DuPage area to consider Prairie Food Co-op ownership, which is a one-time investment of $200. Ownership earns you a democratic vote in the running of the co-op plus certain perks, discounts, and benefits when the store is open.

“We are proud that over 30% of our Owners pledged more than $1M in our initial campaign, but we are still short of our goal,” said Kathy Nash. Prairie Food Co-op requires $4.4 million to fund the build-out, hire employees, stock shelves, and open the  store. 

To date, a total of $2.4 million has been secured via community investment and a bank loan.  With over half the funds secured for the project, Prairie Food Co-op encourages the community to reach out soon to learn more about the Naming Opportunities and Community Investment Program.

Additional information about Prairie Food Co-op and upcoming events can be found online at www.prairiefood.coop/events