CTA’S RPM PHASE ONE PROJECT STIMULATES ECONOMIC GROWTH FOR CHICAGO’S SMALL, DIVERSE BUSINESSES WITH HELP FROM CONTRACTOR WALSH-FLUOR
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.
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 and RPM Contractor Walsh-Fluor team up with LISC Chicago to help small firms get the financial and business capacity they need to compete for large-scale capital projects in Chicago like RPM
As the CTA begins the largest construction project in its history, the $2.1 billion Red and Purple Modernization (RPM) Phase One project, the agency announced today the launch of its “CTA Building Small Businesses Program,” a new, innovative program designed to increase small business participation in RPM and other large-scale construction projects by ensuring local entrepreneurs have the financial guidance, support and resources to bid on City contracts. The “CTA Building Small Businesses Program” was developed to provide financial guidance to small businesses and other 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.
“Chicago was built by small businesses more than 180 years ago, and if we want to continue building on sustainable, affordable and reliable access to transportation options in every neighborhood, we have to start by ensuring our local entrepreneurs are a key part of that vision,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “CTA knows first-hand that Chicago’s small businesses are the backbone of our communities, and I applaud President Carter for launching a groundbreaking inclusive process to provide the resources and tools necessary to stay on the right track and work with the City on large-scale projects so we can continue building a better Chicago together.”
For some small businesses, working on a large construction project requires resources that many firms don’t have, including cash flow that can allow them to purchase materials ahead of being reimbursed, access to loans and other forms of credit, insurance for larger jobs, and access to IT and administrative supports. Without these tools, it can be impossible for many Chicago area small businesses to participate in construction projects.
“We’ve heard from many small businesses that it can be extremely difficult and intimidating to bid on large projects,” said CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. “What is groundbreaking about the ‘CTA Building Small Businesses Program’ is its holistic, step-by-step approach to help DBEs build the financial capacity and the business acumen to work on large projects for CTA and across the state.”
The program has been 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 Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBE) or that are interested in becoming DBE-certified.
The RPM project and LISC Chicago partnership was one of 12 partnerships in Chicago that was recently identified for funding support from the Chicago Community Trust, The Coleman Foundation, JPMorgan Chase and Robert R. McCormick Foundation
The program provides one-on-one financial guidance and helps with prequalifying for loan packages. Firms that do not immediately prequalify for financing will be given access to direct loan placement for financial needs like mobilization, working capital for payroll, equipment and other cash flow needs. The program includes education on insurance and bonding. Qualifying firms can also receive back-office support, technical assistance and other business training.
Beyond helping DBEs compete, the program aims to grow the number of DBEs in the state, currently at about 2,000, and to encourage more of them to do business with CTA.
The first in a series of these free programs was held in September and a second program was held Oct. 24-25. Already, 45 Chicago area small businesses have participated this fall and many are moving forward with LISC Chicago to build the capacity to be ready to bid for sub-contract work on RPM, including becoming loan-ready to build their business. Currently, multiple participants are pursuing loan opportunities and competing for work on the RPM Phase One Project. The next working sessions are scheduled for Nov. 21-22 at the Austin African American Business Networking Association (AAABNA) headquarters, 5820 W. Chicago:
Workshop — Thursday, Nov. 21
3:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Networking
4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Two-hour workshop
The two-hour workshop will describe how to obtain financing and other back office support for your business. Participants will have the opportunity to talk directly to lenders but are required to attend the workshop to participate in one-on-one assessments with lenders.
One-on-one assessments – Thursday, Nov. 21 and Friday, Nov. 22
Nov. 21 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Nov. 22 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Participants can select their 30-minute one-on-one session when they register. Registration info is here.
The “CTA Building Small Businesses Program” is made possible in partnership with LISC Chicago, a leading community development support organization. LISC brings a network of neighborhood financial opportunity centers and other partners to provide financial education, financial products to build credit and assets and a network of community partners to offer technical assistance for these small businesses.
LISC is leveraging support for this program through its Entrepreneurs of Color Fund, a partnership with JPMorgan Chase, Fifth Third Bank, US Bank, Providence Bank and First Midwest Bank, to provide flexible and low-cost loan capital to minority entrepreneurs on Chicago’s south and west sides. In addition, the Businesses of Color Partnerships Fund led by the Chicago Community Trust, The Coleman Foundation, JPMorgan Chase Foundation and Robert R. McCormick Foundation is providing grant funding to support the program.
“The Walsh-Fluor team is working hard to help these small businesses succeed,” said Project Executive David Shier.
For more information about the project, contact the CTA’s Diversity Department by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (312) 681-2600.
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