CHICAGO — After nearly a two-month crusade to get City Hall to hire more black construction workers, it appears that the efforts of millionaire businessman Edward Gardner have paid off.
“We are making a commitment to not only increase opportunities for minority-owned firms, but also to diversify hiring by contractors who receive work from the city of Chicago,” Emanuel said in a statement. “Improving our infrastructure is a long-term investment in our city and improving opportunities for minority-owned firms is an investment in our communities.”
Gardner, founder of the former Soft Sheen Products Co., would like to see more done.
"I applaud the mayor for changing the way for how the Water Department does business but more changes are needed," Gardner said. "What about the Streets and Sanitation Department? That department is big on construction projects, too."
The 87-year-old entrepreneur met Thursday with Jamie Rhee, chief procurement officer for Chicago, and earlier this month he met with Emanuel to discuss what he said is a "lack of color in the construction industry."
The Department of Water Management will help make these changes by reducing the size of its geographical regions. The department says the change will give smaller minority firms with lower construction bonds a better shot at winning contracts.
"By reducing the scope and size of contracts, we are increasing the opportunities for minority-owned contractors who may not have the staff or equipment to successfully bid on contracts with larger responsibilities,” Water Management department Commissioner Thomas Powers said in a statement. "(In addition) the Department of Water Management will provide an initial payment of 10 percent before work begins to give contractors with limited access to capital another revenue source to purchase materials.”
And as an additional contract requirement, Powers said all contractors must organize job fairs in the communities in which the work is being done to provide neighborhood residents with the opportunity to be hired, and then report the results of the job fairs.