In July 2002, John Plunkett, founder and president of Suburban Job-Link (SJL), a Chicago employment training and placement program, was in a bind. His 33-year-old nonprofit, which provided temporary jobs for poorly educated, chronically unemployed Chicagoans, was suffering from the severe post-9/11 recession that had flattened the city’s economy. In the past six months, income had plummeted as hundreds of jobs for low-skilled workers vanished and competitors muscled in on the organization’s day...

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