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African-American businesses left out of Chicago contracts

Published Nov 13, 2017

African-American-owned businesses are largely being left out of City of Chicago contracts, according to recent figures from the administration of Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

While minority and women-owned businesses (M/WBEs) overall have a 29 percent share of the city's contracting awards, African-American-owned businesses received only 8 percent overall.

The share of such contracting dollars going to African-Americans remains not only low overall, but has actually declined relative to the previous year. 

Chief Procurement Officer for the city, Jamie Rhee, stated that the low share of African-American-owned businesses represented in the figures could be chalked up to the figures representing the dollar value of payments, including payments for past projects, rather than the dollar value of awards.

Rhee has also said that the recently expanded suite of incentive programs that aim to reduce obstacles to MBE participation need time to continue to do their work.

Others have offered ideas on how to increase participation of African-American-owned businesses, too. In September, Roderick Sawyer, the chairman of the city council's Black Caucus, proposed that the city lift the cap on gross income and personal net worth that is established by the city’s set-aside program.

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