Chicago to extend minority, women business construction set-aside program for six more years

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© Jeremy Atherton, 2006.

Chicago’s construction set-aside program for minorities and women will continue at least another six years (until December, 2017). New rules will make it easier for contractors to qualify for the opportunities, the Chicago Sun-Times has reported.

The Chicago City Council Committee on Contracting Oversight and Equity agreed on Sept. 10 that the city will earmark 26 percent of construction contracts for minority-owned businesses, and six percent for women-owned enterprises.

“It’s not everything that everyone wants, and we definitely want it to be more. We want the limits to be higher. We want the percentages to go up,” Ald. Jason Ervin (28th), chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus, was quoted as saying.

“But we definitely thank (consultant Collette) Holt for the work that she’s done in laying out a path for us that is not only defensible but almost a guarantee. It gives us the best leverage possible to keep the program and keep growing small minority- and women-owned businesses.”

Revised eligibility requirements include:

  • Allowing minority-and women-owned companies to qualify for the program until they reach 150% of the size standard established by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
  • Averaging gross receipts over a seven-year period, instead of five years.
  • Narrowing factors used to calculate personal net worth by eliminating non-liquid assets that include real estate, retirement savings and the owner’s interest in non-certified businesses.

“Lifting the caps a little bit more and also gross receipts (gives) minority-and women-owned businesses the ability to compete as primes, which is what we all want – to see more … (of these) firms at the prime level, which in turn hire other minority-and women-owned businesses,” said Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th), chairman of the Hispanic Caucus.

Acting Procurement Services Commissioner Monica Jimenez said the relaxed eligibility standards will “better reflect the financial challenges that small business owners face.”  She said “more minority and women-owned firms (will be able) to enter the marketplace, grow and prosper.”

The full City Council is expected to approve the extension.

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