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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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Tips for turning your hobby into a career

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So, if you’re committed to making your pastime a professional endeavour and prepared for all that entails, you might be wondering where to get started. Of course, there are various ways you could go about it, and the below is just one such method:

Start with a business plan

One of the best places to start if you’re trying to convert your hobby into a career is to come up with a solid business plan for your idea. READ MORE AT THE NEWS INTERNATIONAL

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Why Networking Matters… Still

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Networking. A word that can summon fear into even the most resilient of entrepreneurial hearts. However, little else can grow your business as powerfully as networking can.  At its core, networking is the process of building relationships. Over time, these relationships will reveal interesting and worthwhile opportunities for you. READ MORE AT BUSINESS2COMMUNITY

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White men now make up the minority of business owners in the United States, a shift driven by fast growth in women- and LatinX-owned businesses, and one that has profound implications for the country’s finance and innovation infrastructure.

LatinX owned businesses have been growing at a rate of two- to-four times the rate of the overall population since 2015, when Porras’s organization began surveying them. He estimates that there are 1 million net new LatinX-owned businesses created every five years. READ MORE AT FORBES

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With more than half of all Hispanic and Latino Americans unable to set up a basic checking account or send and receive money, the pandemic has highlighted the deep divide between those who are able to access digital banking, and those who are not.

Cuentas (Nasdaq: CUEN), a Miami-based fintech company focused on serving the Hispanic and Latino communities, is looking to narrow that divide, if not eliminate it outright - one card and one app at a time. READ MORE AT THE STREET

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Despite being the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. small business ecosystem, Latinos continue to struggle to secure capital from national banks.

That’s according to the State of Latino Entrepreneurship 2020 research study from the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative.

Stanford’s report found that only 20 percent of Latino-owned businesses that applied for national bank loans over $100,000 obtained funding, compared to 50 percent of white-owned businesses. When looking at loans of all sizes, the percentages change, but not the gap: among Latinos, 51 percent received loans versus 77 percent for whites. READ MORE AT CBS NEWS

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I recently noticed my friend added the descriptor “Latina-owned small business” on her website and related accounts. She’s not Latina. Neither is anyone in her immediate family, her extended family, nor ancestrally. She’s a white woman. I am Latina, and my culture is very important to me. READ MORE AT SLATE

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42 % of U.S. adults want a small business

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Forty-two percent (42%) of American adults either have owned a small business or want to do so.

A Job Creators Network/ScottRasmussen.com national survey found that 22% have already run their own business and another 20% would like to do so in the future.

Black and Hispanic Americans who have never run their own business are more interested in trying it than white Americans. READ MORE AT NEWSMAX

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America's start-up culture is waking up from its post-recession slumber.

New business creation has long been sluggish compared with previous decades. In 2013, it hit a 20-year low. But since then, the pace of start-up creation has climbed for two years running, according to a study by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, and is approaching levels not seen since before the recession, in 2008 and 2009. Significantly, new entrepreneurs are opening up shop not because of necessity — in other words, not because they were previously unemployed and needed income — but because they see an opportunity that previously didn't exist. READ MORE AT THE WEEK

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By now, many marketers have heard of the tremendous opportunities the United States. Hispanic consumer represents in terms of numbers and purchasing power. However, in the age of hypersegmentation and targeting, Millennials and bi-cultural Hispanics have risen to the top of marketer’s go-to Hispanic sub-segments. While most companies focus on this target, there is an untapped consumer segment that has serious growth potential, Hispanic business owners. READ MORE AT MEDIAPOST

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Only about 1% of all Latino-owned businesses created between 2007 and 2012 in the U.S. received venture capital or angel investments, according to a report by the Stanford Graduate School of Business that surveyed roughly 1,800 businesses.

One big reason: Very few Latino-owned firms are even walking through the doors of venture capital firms to begin with.

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Working on you is not an easy task, you first have to admit you need to improve and find those areas where improvement is needed. You will have to go into an uncomfortable zone where you will have to evaluate your mistakes and their root, if you dig deep you will find out the root is your mindset, that information you have programmed in your subconscious mind.

It is at this moment, where the hard work starts, you will have to unlearn so many things and replace them with new disciplines and believes, this is very uncomfortable and not easy. This is where most will quit, they will be afraid of change and the unknown, they will let the little voice in their head convince them of not being worth it, it will make them believe they can't do it, or the pain of doing it for a long time will not pay off.

Many will get discourage reading this message, but those who are determined to step up and BE all they can BE, will take it as an inspiration and reason to do it, to work on them and become a better version of themselves, which is what others are afraid of becoming.

But not you, you want change, you want to make a difference, you want to challenge the norm, you want to BE the person you have always known you can be, but didn't have the courage to become before. Take the first step, it will not be easy, but my friend I guarantee you it will be worth it.

BE what others are afraid to BE!!

Have a great day

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