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CTA’S RPM Project Stimulates Economic Growth for Small, Diverse Businesses

CTA’S RPM Project Stimulates Economic Growth for Small, Diverse Businesses


Program assists nearly 100 businesses in building financial capacity, securing federal loan assistance

CHICAGO (September 15, 2021) – CTA’s Red and Purple Modernization (RPM) Project, the largest transit investment in the agency’s history, today announced the milestone of securing $5 million in federal loans in 2020-2021 for local small businesses as part of the CTA Building Small Businesses (BSB) Program.

The BSB Program, launched in 2019, was developed to provide financial guidance to small businesses and other Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs) by offering direct loan placement and other supports so they can demonstrate the up-front capital needed to compete on large-scale transportation construction and capital programs.

CTA provided technical and funding assistance to about 100 small businesses during 2020-2021, an incredibly unpredictable and unprecedented time for DBEs. In direct response to financial hardships brought on by the pandemic, the project expanded to include assistance to companies applying for federal CARES Act loans, helping secure $5 million for these businesses.

The program was created through a partnership between the CTA, RPM contractor Walsh-Fluor Design-Build Team, and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC Chicago). The program consists of free capacity-building workshops for small businesses that are certified as DBEs or that are interested in becoming DBE-certified.

Unlike other programs, BSB offers both one on one financial capacity assessments and technical assistance, helping more minority businesses get through the impact of Covid-19 by securing PPP loans, or by teaching the businesses best practices that could help a small, minority-owned vendors build technical acumen and capacity to bid on future RPM or CTA contracting opportunities. Instrumental in providing these services through the program are Suzanne Arkle, CEO of Zann and Associates and Darrick Brown, President of ABF Consulting Group, both businesses contracted through Walsh-Fluor.

“CTA is proud to help small, minority-owned businesses with becoming better able to grow and compete for contracts on projects like the Red and Purple Modernization Project,” said CTA President Dorval Carter, Jr. “By removing barriers to opportunities, we’re investing in our communities and our cities, increasing economic equity in our city.”

Here are some of the businesses’ stories on how CTA’s BSB program helped them secure funds, were awarded a contract to work on RPM Phase One and/or were able to take advantage of new business opportunities:

Allstate Concrete Cutting is an MBE/DBE-certified concrete cutting and coring business led by its owner, Mike Seay. In 2009, Seay purchased Allstate on the cusp of bankruptcy, with only one truck and two saws. Seay has grown the business to 14 trucks and 10 saws with about 15 employees over the past 12 years. Seay attended Walsh-Fluor’s Lunch and Learn series as part of the BSB Program, providing him with tools and resources to continue to grow his business successfully. Walsh-Fluor and CTA ultimately awarded Allstate a contract to work on RPM Phase One, providing concrete coring, concrete wall cutting and saw-cutting for the project.

AMS Elite Solutions is a WBE/DBE-certified construction hauling and material supplier company led by founder Julie Savitt. Savitt started AMS Elite Solutions in 2016 with only one truck, and has since grown her business to have 12 trucks and additional equipment. Interested in learning how to build financial capacity for the business, Savitt attended a BSB Program event where she received mentoring and the opportunity to network with industry professionals. Ultimately, she bid on and was awarded a RPM contact to provide ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­trucking and aggregate hauling services. ­Additionally, the BSB Program assisted Savitt in securing CARES Act funding for her business during the pandemic.

Paniagua Group is an MBE/DBE-certified contractor specializing in carpentry, demolition for interiors, construction clean up, painting and flooring. Founder Al Paniagua is a second-generation Latin-American, born from parents who immigrated to the United States from Mexico. Paniagua has been in business for 27 years, employing between 25 and 70 people at a time. Trying to grow his business over the years, he was denied loans because of work unpredictability and limited assets. Then the pandemic hit, and Paniagua feared it would be the end of his business. As a firm believer in networking, Paniagua explored the BSB Program, which mentored him and helped him obtain a 15-year, low-interest loan. BSB Program contacts also assisted him in securing CARES Act funding to help him through the pandemic, and facilitated an introduction to Walsh Construction’s healthcare division – an area of construction where Paniagua group continues to obtain work. 

Trevor Development, Inc. is a 40-year-old MBE/DBE-certified contractor that specializes in residential interior construction and commercial build-outs. Its founder, Anthony Copeland, attended one of the BSB Program’s virtual workshops to build financial capacity, which provided him with a one-on-one session with a lender that assisted Trevor Development in securing funding through the CARES Act, helping the business through the pandemic.

Smelly Fresh LLC is a janitorial cleaning services company founded in 2014 by Steve James, a former attorney inspired by an incident when a cleaning crew failed to show up to his friend’s restaurant. He offered to clean the restaurant and his friend offered him a contract. James grew his business from seven to 95 clients, and his participation in the BSB program led to bidding on and being awarded a contract on the RPM project to clean project offices.

“Working with this team gave us a lot of confidence that we can do this work and have the capacity,” said Julie Savitt, President of AMS Elite Solutions. “I’m very thankful for the mentoring and support.”

Following the success of the Walsh-Fluor and RPM Phase One BSB Program, CTA decided to implement an authority-wide program which is now in the process of procuring a team to continue administering the program on the whole-system scale.

The CTA BSB Program was also one of many diversity initiatives cited in the July 2021 Outstanding Public Transportation System Award and the Outstanding Public Transportation Manager Award, from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) – the highest honors in the North American public transportation industry. The system award recognizes the CTA’s unprecedented modernization and diversity and inclusion efforts in 2020 to provide service during the Covid-19 pandemic, which impacted every transit agency in the nation.

The CTA BSB Program was created through a partnership between the CTA, RPM contractor Walsh-Fluor Design-Build Team and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC Chicago). For more information about RPM Phase One’s SBE/DBE development efforts and opportunities, go to transitchicago.com/rpm/small-businesses.

In partnership with Red and Purple Modernization (RPM) contractor Walsh-Fluor and non-profit Chicago Scholars, CTA opens college scholarship program for low-income Chicago youth in program’s second year

CHICAGO – Mayor Lightfoot, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) recently announced that new applications are now being accepted for the “CTA Elevating Futures Scholarship Fund”, an innovative program that provides a path for economically disadvantaged youth to pursue education and careers in construction and engineering.

Created in partnership with the Walsh-Fluor Design-Build team — the contractor for CTA’s historic $2.1 billion Red and Purple Modernization (RPM) Phase One Project — the scholarship program provides aid to students who plan to pursue four-year degrees in construction management, civil engineering, industrial engineering or systems engineering.

“It’s important that as a city we continue to invest in our youth and prepare them for the future,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “The CTA’s innovative scholarship program provides opportunity to hard-working students from low-income backgrounds, helping them achieve their potential in an especially challenging world.”

“With every CTA project, we are committed to creating opportunity and inclusion for Chicagoans across the city,” said CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. “With potential future labor shortages in these industries, there is a growing opportunity for our youth to enter occupational fields in which they have been historically underrepresented.”

The “CTA Elevating Futures Scholarship Fund” was created by CTA in 2019 and is now in its second year. Walsh-Fluor is funding the program with $250,000 for 10 scholarships between 2020 and 2023. Students who are awarded scholarships are also eligible to apply for paid summer internships with Walsh-Fluor. The program is administered by Chicago Scholars, a mentoring and leadership development organization that helps first-generation college students and students from under-resourced communities navigate transitions into college, through college and on to careers.

“We have so many students who work hard and are committed to their education and need financial assistance to achieve their dreams,” said CPS CEO Dr. Janice K. Jackson. “The ‘CTA Elevating Futures Scholarship Fund,’ lessens the barriers they face and gives them the opportunities they need to succeed, especially during such difficult times.”

“Chicago Scholars is proud to partner with the CTA and Walsh-Fluor and create important opportunities for CPS students through the ‘CTA Elevating Futures Scholarship Fund’,” said Jeffery Beckham Jr., Chicago Scholars Interim CEO. “This fund will elevate opportunities for our financially under-resourced and first-generation Scholars beyond college access as they continue on the path to becoming young professionals and leaders within Chicago’s STEM industry.”

Program details and timeline

  • The application period opened Dec. 10, 2020 and applications will be due March 1, 2021. To apply, click here.
  • Up to three scholarships will be awarded of $5,500 a year for four years per winner.
  • Scholarship winners will be announced on April 15, 2021.
  • Eligible students must be enrolled in a CPS or CPS-supported high school and currently part of the Chicago Scholars program. Chicago Scholars recruits from all 77 community areas of the city and has student representation from 75 CPS and CPS-supported high schools.
  • Eligible students must be enrolled in STEM coursework, have a grade point average of at least 3.0, and have a good attendance record.

In 2020, three CPS students were awarded scholarships. Learn more about them here and check out a video of them here.

La beca “CTA Elevating Futures Scholarship Fund” ya está aceptando solicitudes

En alianza con Walsh-Fluor, compañía constructora del Programa de Modernización de las Líneas Roja y Morada (RPM, por sus siglas in inglés)  y la organización sin fines de lucro Chicago Scholars, CTA abre el programa de becas universitarias para jóvenes de bajos ingresos de Chicago en el segundo año del programa

CHICAGO – La alcaldesa Lightfoot, la Autoridad de Tránsito de Chicago (CTA), y las Escuelas Públicas de Chicago (CPS) anunciaron el pasado 29 de diciembre que ya están aceptando nuevas solicitudes para la beca “CTA Elevating Futures Scholarship Fund”, un programa innovador que brinda una opción a los jóvenes desfavorecidos económicamente para que puedan emprender su educación y estudiar carreras de construcción e ingeniería.

Creada en conjunto con el equipo de Walsh-Fluor Design-Build, la compañía constructora a cargo del histórico proyecto de 2,100 millones de dólares de CTA, el Proyecto de Modernización de las Líneas Roja y Morada Fase Uno de CTA (RPM), el programa de becas proporciona ayuda financiera a estudiantes que planean estudiar carreras de cuatro años de administración de la construcción, ingeniería civil, ingeniería industrial o ingeniería en sistemas.

“Es importante que en nuestra ciudad sigamos invirtiendo en nuestros jóvenes y preparándolos para el futuro”, declaró la alcaldesa Lightfoot. “Este innovador programa de becas de CTA brinda oportunidades a estudiantes diligentes de bajos ingresos, ayudándoles a desarrollar su potencial en un mundo lleno de retos”.

“En cada proyecto de CTA, nos comprometemos a crear oportunidades y una mayor inclusión para los habitantes de Chicago por toda la ciudad”, señaló Dorval R. Carter Jr., Presidente de CTA. “Debido a la posible escasez de mano de obra en estas industrias en el futuro, existe una oportunidad cada vez más amplia para que nuestra juventud tenga acceso a  ocupaciones en las que no han tenido suficiente representación en el pasado”.

La beca “CTA Elevating Futures Scholarship Fund” fue creada por CTA en 2019 y este es su segundo año. Walsh-Fluor está financiando el programa con 250,000 dólares para 10 becas entre 2020 y 2023. Los estudiantes a los que les otorgan una beca también califican para solicitar prácticas profesionales de verano pagadas con Walsh-Fluor. El programa lo administra Chicago Scholars, una organización de desarrollo de mentores y líderes que ayuda a estudiantes universitarios de primera generación y a estudiantes de comunidades de bajos recursos con la transición a la universidad, los cambios durante la universidad y la transición a carreras profesionales.

“Tenemos muchos estudiantes muy dedicados y comprometidos con su educación que requieren ayuda financiera para cumplir sus sueños”, declaró la Dra. Janice K. Jackson, Directora General de CPS. La beca ‘CTA Elevating Futures Scholarship Fund’ atenúa los obstáculos a los que se enfrentan y les brinda las oportunidades que necesitan para alcanzar el éxito, especialmente durante tiempos tan difíciles como los actuales”.

“En Chicago Scholars estamos orgullosos de aliarnos con CTA y Walsh-Fluor para crear oportunidades importantes para los estudiantes de CPS a través la beca ‘CTA Elevating Futures Scholarship Fund’”, dijo Jeffery Beckham Jr., Director General Provisional de Chicago Scholars. “Esta beca ampliará las oportunidades para nuestros estudiantes de bajos recursos y de primera generación más allá del acceso a la universidad, conforme sigan su camino a convertirse en jóvenes profesionales y líderes en las industrias CTIM de Chicago”.

Detalles y cronología del programa

  • El período de solicitud comenzó el 10 de diciembre de 2020 y la fecha límite para las solicitudes es el 1.o de marzo de 2021. Para hacer una solicitud haga clic aquí.
  • Serán otorgadas hasta tres becas de 5,500 dólares al año durante cuatro años para cada ganador.
  • Se anunciarán los ganadores de las becas el 15 de abril de 2021.
  • Los estudiantes elegibles deben estar inscritos en una escuela preparatoria de CPS o respaldada por CPS y deben ser parte del programa Chicago Scholars actualmente. Chicago Scholars recluta estudiantes de las 77 áreas comunitarias de la ciudad y tiene una representación estudiantil de 75 escuelas preparatorias de CPS o respaldadas por CPS.
  • Los estudiantes elegibles deben estar inscritos en materias de CTIM, tener un promedio (GPA) de al menos 3.0 y tener un buen registro de asistencia.

En 2020, tres estudiantes de CPS recibieron becas; vea un video sobre ellos aquí.

While COVID has hit the pause button on so many opportunities for our high school students, CTA is helping provide a path for CPS high school students to pursue architecture-, construction- and engineering-related careers through CTA’s historic Red and Purple Modernization (RPM) Phase One Project.

On Wednesday, November 18, CTA, RPM contractor Walsh-Fluor and the ACE Mentor Program hosted ACE Trades Day with CPS, a virtual event that introduced students to the trades and future career opportunities. Over 30 students attended the event in which they got to see testimonials from tradespeople working on the RPM project on what it is like to work in construction and how they got their start in the industry, as well as ask questions in real time. From the beginning of the project, RPM has been about making a better future for all Chicagoans, including Chicago students, and this effort is another way CTA hopes to break down barriers for students to pursue their career dreams. 

CTA, Walsh-Fluor and ACE plan to host another one of these virtual events later in the school year. For more information about ACE and the RPM Phase One Project, please see below.

Through the landmark CTA Building Small Businesses Program, CTA and Walsh-Fluor helped 10 small businesses working on the RPM project to secure $3.4 million in federal funds

The CTA’s Red and Purple Modernization (RPM) Phase One Project and the Walsh-Fluor Design-Build Team, RPM’s contractor, have helped disadvantaged business enterprises (DBEs) successfully apply for and receive $3.4 million in COVID-19-related federal aid.

The CTA with Walsh-Fluor and LISC Chicago created the “CTA Building Small Businesses” program in 2019 to provide financial and technical assistance to small businesses that are certified as Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBE) or that are seeking to become DBE-certified to be eligible to work on CTA projects. Since the COVID-19 crisis began, CTA and Walsh-Fluor have expanded their support to help companies apply for federal CARES Act loans, which includes the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loans.

“These small businesses are helping CTA build new Red Line stations and tracks, and in our view, it is just as important to invest in our communities as it is in our infrastructure,” said CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. “Given the strength of our CTA Building Small Businesses program with our partner Walsh-Fluor, it made perfect sense to go beyond our regular program assistance to help these businesses survive this unprecedented period.”

Paniagua Group, based in Arlington Heights, is one such beneficiary from participating in CTA’s Small Business Program and receiving guidance on successfully applying for federal COVID-19 funds. Paniagua, through working with Walsh-Fluor and CTA through its “CTA Building Small Businesses”, has successfully bid and worked on a CTA construction project because of its participation.

This spring, CTA and Walsh-Fluor held a virtual CTA Building Small Businesses session during which:

  • Small businesses were provided information about how to swiftly assemble the necessary documents to successfully apply for federal funding.
  • The program team created a guide outlining the capacity of both lending programs, who is eligible, and what financial information applicants should be prepared to submit.
  • The team worked one-on-one with DBEs seeking loans.
  • Thirteen (13) companies, including contractors and professional services, were successful in applying for loans that ranged in amounts from about $6,500 to $1.2 million.

The CTA Building Small Businesses Program was created to help small businesses bid on large projects like the $2.1 billion RPM project.  The program is designed to help DBEs secure loans for working capital, equipment and other cash-flow needs. Launched in September 2019, the program has worked with dozens of small businesses to develop the capacity to bid on CTA projects like the RPM.

For more information on RPM, visit transitchicago.com/RPM.


CTA, RPM Contractor Walsh-Fluor and Chicago Scholars in 2020 Launched RPM Scholarship Program to Help Youth Pursue Education and Careers in Construction

Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot, CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. and CPS CEO Dr. Janice Jackson announced today that three recent Chicago Public School graduates have been named recipients of the “CTA Elevating Futures Scholarship Fund”, the first students to be awarded these scholarships since the program was launched earlier this year [link to video].

The scholarship program provides $5,500 per year for four years to economically disadvantaged students who plan to pursue studies in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) for engineering and construction-related degrees.

“As Chicago faces multiple challenges, now more than ever we must continue to find ways to increase equitable access to opportunity for all of our youth,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “Innovative programs like this scholarship program help give the financial and mentoring support these outstanding students need and prepare them to build careers and participate in our city’s economic vibrancy.”

“From the very start, the RPM project has been about making a better future for all Chicagoans: residents, riders, businesses and the workforce,” said CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. “This program moves us closer to that goal by offering these remarkable students with the opportunity to pursue education and build careers in the construction and engineering fields.”

“Every CPS graduate deserves to be able to follow their postsecondary dreams without facing an insurmountable financial barrier,” said CPS CEO Dr. Janice K. Jackson. “Through the ‘CTA Elevating Futures Scholarship Fund,’ the CTA and Walsh-Fluor are providing a helping hand to some of our city’s hardest-working young adults.”

“We are proud of these three students and the work they’ve accomplished,” said Dave Shier, Walsh-Fluor RPM Project Executive. “We hope this scholarship not only brightens their present, but enables them to lead tomorrow’s engineering fields and truly become the city of Chicago’s next generation of homegrown leaders.”

“The commitment provided to Chicago Scholars’ students through the ‘CTA Elevating Futures Scholarship Fund’ is a game changer. Not only does it provide important financial support, it is proof that Chicago’s leaders see these three students as the leaders of tomorrow,” said Dominique Jordan Turner, CEO of Chicago Scholars. “We are proud of these students, and all of our Scholars, who are continuing to commit to their futures and education in these uncertain times.”

The program was created as part of the CTA’s historic $2.1 billion Red and Purple Modernization Phase One (RPM) project. Project contractor Walsh-Fluor Design-Build team is sponsoring the scholarships and making paid internships on the RPM project available to scholarship recipients.

The first-of-its-kind CTA initiative provides scholarships, mentoring support and career guidance for under-resourced college students. The scholarship program is administered by Chicago Scholars, a nonprofit dedicated to college access, college success, and leadership development for first-generation and low-income students in Chicago.

Donated by Walsh-Fluor to help offset tuition costs for CPS graduates, the $250,000 ‘CTA Elevating Futures Scholarship Fund’ will provide 10 financial aid scholarships from 2020 through 2023 for students who plan on majoring in construction management, civil engineering, industrial or systems engineering. Students who are awarded scholarships will also be eligible to apply for paid summer internships with Walsh-Fluor and the CTA.

The 2020 CTA Elevating Futures Scholars, featured in a video here, are:

Jorge Vargas, 17, Humboldt Park

Jorge graduated near the top of his class at Lake View High School and will pursue a degree in civil engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is passionate about engineering and fell in love with trains as a young child, when he would travel back and forth between New York and Chicago on the Amtrak. He believes the innovative power that civil engineers have can be of immense benefit to society, and he hopes to use his engineering skills for positive social impact. In the future, he aspires to combine his interest in civil engineering with his entrepreneurial spirit by developing an international high-speed transit company that works to combat climate change. His goals also include providing more accessible and affordable transportation around the city in order to address needs in transportation deserts and promote economic development.

Other recipients:

Jasmine Jackson, 18, Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood

Jasmine ranked first in her class of nearly 200 students at Noble Street Charter – Gary Comer College Prep and will study engineering at Howard University. Her goal is to become a civil engineer because it will allow her to merge her two passions: math and art. She loves the challenge of solving a difficult math problem and the satisfaction of expressing her creativity through art. As a civil engineer, she will bring her creative side to her projects while ensuring everything is mathematically correct. Jasmine plans to use her profession to make the world a better place, for example, by starting a program that would build tiny homes for people who are experiencing homelessness.

George Vintila, 18, Portage Park

After excelling at Lane Tech College Prep in advanced courses such as AP Physics C Electricity and Mechanics, AP Calculus BC, and AP Computer Science, George will be studying computer engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology this fall. He believes that engineers hold the power to implement ideas to help ease economic inequality. He is excited about what he will learn through studying engineering in college and hopes that his efforts “will contribute to a cycle, where new students learn to engineer and apply their new-found proficiency to help others in need, who will then learn and do the same thing.” At school, George tutored other students through the Physics Club and focused on promoting renewable energies and recycling through the Environmental Club.

For more information about this program, visit ­CTA’s web site at transitchicago.com/rpm/workforce-opportunities or Chicago Scholars’ website at chicagoscholars.org/elevatingfutures.

Currently, COVID-19 is challenging individuals who are looking for training and workforce opportunities as unemployment rates rise. Recognizing a need, now more than ever, for workforce development resources, CTA is hosting webinars connecting local job seekers to construction industry opportunities.

As part of its workforce development efforts for the Red and Purple Modernization Phase One Project, CTA has been hosting a series of webinars called Construction Talks to connect participants to training and workforce opportunities in the construction industry during COVID-19. This virtual program was developed in direct response to the pandemic to ensure that while social distancing measures are being implemented individuals still have access to workforce development resources.

Each webinar provides apprenticeship details and a Q&A portion for the attendees to ask questions in real-time, as well as virtual tours of the hosting organizations, which include workforce assistance and community organizations and government agencies.  CTA has hosted five webinars with over 150 attendees collectively.

The next two Construction Talks will take place on Friday, June 26 at 12:00pm and Friday, July 10 at 12:00pm. Links to the registration pages are below –

  • Friday, June 26 at 12pm: Click here
  • Friday, July 10 at 12pm:  Click here