This week Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel announced two plans, effective immediately, to help to create a level playing field for small minority- and women-owned businesses. These plans are designed to increase opportunities for both groups in the public and private sector as well as to ensure that City of Chicago inclusion goals are being met.
According to a City of Chicago press release, the first program, the Small Business Initiative, is a race and gender neutral opportunity, for small businesses to compete for construction projects totaling no more than $3 million. “Small businesses, which often don’t go up against the big guys, will have fencing, roofing and other construction work set aside for them. In 2012, that work could add up to $40 million,” said Emanuel.
The second program, known as the Diversity Credit Program, was developed to increase the use of minority- and women-owned businesses on contracts issued in the private sector. For every $3 of private sector contracts, $1 in credit will be issued to the contractor, which can be used to provide up to 5 percent of a subsequent city contract. This will encourage the City’s largest construction contractors to work with minority- and women-owned businesses in not just the public, but the private sector as well.
“It’s not enough that we’re committed in City government to supporting our small businesses and women- and minority-owned businesses,” says Jamie Rhee, chief procurement officer for the City of Chicago. “We must involve the private sector, the non-profit community, and the City of Chicago. Everyone’s support and involvement is crucial to our success.”
To receive the credit, companies will be required to sign a sworn affidavit and allow the City to audit their books to verify the hiring of minority- and women-owned businesses, according to a Chicago Tribune report on the program.
These programs, coupled with the recent announcement that Chicago will join the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses initiative, will undoubtedly ensure the health of local small businesses going forward.
Kristin Travis is Program Assistant at the WBDC.