business (253)

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

CHICAGO (September 10, 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.

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