Spring is here and we at PFC want to update our community on our efforts to raise the capital needed to move forward at 109 S. Main St. in Lombard. We appreciate your interest as the PFC board and volunteers work tirelessly to open our community-owned grocery store.
Per our agreement with the site developer, Holladay Properties, our original goal was to raise a total of $4.4M by December 1, 2021 to secure 109 S. Main in Lombard. Funding to-date includes:
- $1.67M pledged in Owner contributions
- $1.2M bank loan, dependent on raising the rest of the capital
- $300K in Owner equity
$3.2M raised is an impressive accomplishment, but as reported in previous communications and on our website, we were still $1.2M short as the December deadline approached. We requested and received an extension until March 1 to raise the remaining $1.2M needed.
Efforts at Closing the Gap
Together, Owners of PFC have already pledged a direct investment of $1.67M of our own money for our co-op’s future, showing our deep commitment to enriching our community. We had strong reason to believe at least half of this funding gap could be met through public funds at the village, county, and/or state levels after seeing over 80% of U.S. food co-ops that have opened in the last three years receive significant funding from these sources. Many co-ops receive some municipal support in recognition of their powerful economic impact in their communities. With this knowledge, we dove into pursuing all possible options.
Village of Lombard: Requested up to $400K
- TIF Funding (declined) - Since the Village has long sought to bring a grocery store to downtown Lombard and 109 S. Main is located in the downtown TIF district, PFC requested $400K in upfront TIF assistance to help close our funding gap and meet the community's desire for a downtown grocer. In our discussions with the Village Board, they have shown willingness to extend performance-based incentives once PFC is open. Unfortunately, the upfront investment is what is critical to our project at this time. The Village Board is currently opposed to creating a new policy that uses TIF assistance as upfront investment.
- No/Low Interest Loan (declined) - The Village currently offers a Downtown Forgivable Loan program to restaurants that we hoped could be extended to PFC due to the fact that grocery stores are food centric, foster economic viability, and face unique challenges opening in a downtown area. However, the Village declined to offer PFC a loan of this type.
Sales Tax Rebate Incentive (pending)
- Trustee Anthony Puccio has committed to help PFC take advantage of the existing sales tax rebate incentive program that allows the Co-op to capture generated sales tax - up to 100%. While this doesn’t close the funding gap, it does make a significant difference in overall financial performance.
- Village staff are investigating the possibility of using our sales tax rebate incentive as collateral for additional bank funding.
While we appreciate the time Village Board officials spent to discuss PFC and potential options, the end result of these discussions has not helped us close our present funding gap.
DuPage County: Requested $400K ARPA Funding (declined)
PFC requested $400K of the $135M American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds awarded to DuPage County. Other food co-ops have received pledges of significant ARPA funding from their local governance, but the County Board's Finance committee has so far declined our request.
State of Illinois: $800K Grant (pending)
The PFC Board applied for a state-funded grant for approximately $800,000. Our grant request has been vetted and approved by grant writing professionals, but this grant is very competitive and accessing grant funds has been difficult in the past given our lack of not-for-profit status. This would clearly not make up for the full funding gap, but would be a significant addition to our finances.
Our Most Valuable Resource - Our Owners
Co-ops are created to meet the needs of Owners through mutual self-reliance. A central, underlying concept, Cooperative Principle 3, states that Owners themselves are the primary source of capital, and Owners share common ownership and control of the Co-op's capital. Under this principle, 30% of Owners invested or donated $1.67M - a strong financial commitment.
There are many other ways to help your Co-op. The PFC board and committee members are all volunteers and have donated a tremendous amount of work and time. We are always looking for more help, especially at this critical point.
And we would be remiss if we didn't remind you that one of the simplest ways to support Prairie Food Co-op is by becoming a PFC Owner.
The PFC Board of Directors continues to work with Holladay Properties who are willing to be flexible and work beyond the March 1st deadline, but it is important to stress that there is currently no clear path to close the $1.2M gap.
If there is a path forward at 109 S. Main, we will pursue it. If not, the PFC board is committed to opening our store at a viable location vetted by a reliable market study that predicts a strong measure of success. With over 1600 Owners, $1.67M raised, and a loan commitment from West Suburban Bank, we are in a strong position to move quickly and will continue investigating all fiscally-responsible and logistically-sound options available to us.
Our goal remains the same - to open a community-owned grocery store. The PFC Board of Directors takes its fiscal responsibility seriously and will only consider options that have the highest chance of success.
We are not the first food co-op to have challenges and setbacks in pursuit of their store site and we won’t be the last. From day one, we have been following a road map that our nationally-recognized Board of Directors has not just followed, but improved upon. There is more than one path to success, and we are closer than ever to opening the community-owned grocery store for which we’ve all been working so hard.