CHATHAM — Millionaire businessman Edward Gardner visited a construction site in Chatham Thursday to illustrate his point that few, if any, blacks can be found working on these jobs in the city, especially in black neighborhoods.
"This makes no sense at all. Here we have a construction project going on in the heart of the black community and out of 15 workers none are black," Gardner said.
The city has said that 21 percent of the $1.2 billion in city contracts were given to minority-owned companies, but the portion of black workers employed by them was unclear.
Gardner said he would meet Thursday with Jamie Rhee, the city's chief procurement officer, to verify the percentage of black contractors working for the city. Earlier this month he met with Mayor Rahm Emanuel about the issue and agreed to help the mayor recruit more African American workers.
The construction site Gardner visited is at the corner of 87th and State streets where a former Shell gas station stood. The general contractor for the project is CLP Inc., which is headquartered in Reno, Nev.
Officials at CLP did not return calls for comment about the project.
As founder of the former Soft Sheen Products Co. Gardner knows the area well. His company, which he sold in 1998 to L'Oreal, was headquartered two blocks away at 85th Street and Wabash Avenue.
"I'm 87-years-old and if this must be my last crusade in my life, so be it. I will not rest until I see more blacks hired for construction projects," he added.