Chicago’s Black Businesses Get a Bigger Slice of City Contracts

The Chicago skyline seen from a helicopter.  More black businesses have been given city contracts this year. (AP Photo Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Chicago businesses owned by African Americans got $193 million, or 21 percent, of the contracts awarded by the city for the first eight months of this year. This is an increase from the mere eight percent ($96 million) they got for the same period last year.

“Although the black contracting surge sounds too good to be true, [Chief Procurement Officer Jamie] Rhee said it’s a product of the mayor’s decision to reform the scandal-scarred minority business program, return certification and compliance to the Department of Procurement Services and ‘really get out there and aggressively talk to people’ about upcoming opportunities,” reports the Chicago Sun-Times.

There was a recent dust-up in the city, sparked by octogenarian Soft Sheen founder Ed Gardner, over the lack of black construction workers on jobs around the city. In that case, Mayor Rahm Emanuel cited the number of jobs created for minority- and women-owned businesses, but charged the unions with training people appropriately for those jobs.

For Hispanic businesses, it’s been a different story. Contracts to businesses owned by Latinos in the first eight months have dropped from 16 percent last year (worth $201 million) to 13 percent this year, or $118 million. The Sun-Times says the gains for African-American businesses apparently resulted in losses for Hispanics and “non-minority” women-owned businesses; the latter saw their piece of the pie drop from five percent ($14 million) during the first eight months of 2011 to three percent ($26 million) this year.

Overall, the city bought $1.2 billion in goods and services through August 2012.


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