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April 13, 2020
Our team in Chicago has a new friend and partner in The Will Group, a Black-owned, family-led organization composed of several, smaller specialist companies that deliver lighting, electrical, and manufacturing solutions—and much, much more.
“It’s hard to overstate how much good The Will Group is doing in and beyond their own, West Side neighborhood,” said Zola Stewart, a Community and Citizenship senior specialist, adding that she first connected with the Group when Stephen Taylor, their director of professional services responded to an outreach email. “One of the first things he did was invite me and a handful of other Turner people to tour the Group’s K-Town Business Centre, which is a huge fabrication and warehouse space they’ve opened South Lawndale. They have several firms working and creating side by side there. I was really impressed by what we saw.”
During the visit, Zola and the rest of the Turner group got the chance to connect with people from some of those firms—all of which are themselves underrepresented business enterprises—including Electrical Resource Management, Lyons View Manufacturing, TwiG Technologies, Industrial Electrical Supply, and TWG Infrastructure Solutions.
“One of the highlights for me was learning about The Resurrection Project, which is one of the organizations currently working out of the Centre,” said Zola. “Part of their work is prefabricating affordable, modular homes that are going into communities where gentrification is driving up property values.” She added that as with the other Will Group firms, the labor force behind The Resurrection Project is nearly all people from the community, the majority of whom are people of color.
On top of their manufacturing work, which includes assembling smart lighting fixtures in partnership with ComEd and a number of other exciting, city-focused projects, the Group is also running a growing workforce development program, and doing staff augmentation for engineering and technical roles at other firms. “We’re using their logistical support services, for example,” said Patrick Jones,” a Community and Citizenship program specialist. “But they also offer professional engineering services, project managers, and other specialized services to firms like Turner. They’ve got a lot going on!”
The Will Group’s founder and chairman, Stephen Davis, created the Group in memory of his father William, from whom he inherited both his entrepreneurial vision and tremendous care for people. “He understood that business could make a difference. He understood the importance of jobs. And by businesses being open and having jobs available that can change communities,” said Stephen, reflecting broadly on the growth and success of the Group, which has already created more than 100, good-paying jobs for local people. “I don't believe I can solve all the world's ills, but I do wake up at night trying to think how we can leave it a little bit better than we found it.”
“The Will Group is really leading by example when it comes to serving the local community,” added Patrick. “They’re working with young women of color who want to join the trades, they’re helping formerly incarcerated people re-enter the labor force…From their technical skills to their community values, they’re exactly the kind of trade partner we want to be collaborating with.”