Running a grocery store is no small task. It’s about providing for the community, sure, but it’s also about keeping the lights on, the doors open, and the produce fresh. Sometimes, though, the cost of doing business can weigh heavy, like an old freezer working overtime just to keep a steady chill.
Here’s some good news for the independent grocers of Illinois. Last year, Governor J.B. Pritzker announced the Illinois Grocery Initiative and the first program to launch is the Equipment Upgrades Program. This grant program is aimed at upgrading outdated equipment that consumes excessive energy and inflates operational costs.
Applications just opened for a slice of the $3.5 million pie. As Governor Pritzker puts it, “Local grocery stores are the backbone of food-secure and healthy communities, and investing in upgrades for these local pillars grants them the stability needed to continue serving local needs and ensuring access to fresh food.”
This is an important program for a lot of the smaller grocery stores. Their equipment, like coolers and freezers, is decades old, and their energy bills are through the roof. With the profit margins being so low in the grocery industry, they often don’t have the money to replace these items.
Grants range from $25,000 to $250,000 and funds can be used to replace heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, plus refrigeration units, freezers, and lighting systems. For every dollar received, the business has to match 25%.
To get in on this, your store needs to be independent, with less than 500 people on the payroll and no more than four stores to your name. Priority goes to stores in food deserts.
The grant closes on March 25, 2024. Applications and links to attend informational webinars (Wednesday 31st at 10 a.m. and February 8th at 2 p.m.) can be found on the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity website.