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City of Chicago Disparity Study
for Construction Contracts

The City of Chicago (“the City”) is conducting a disparity study for its Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprise (“M/WBE”) Program for Construction Contracts. The study seeks to ensure that minority-owned business enterprises (“MBEs”) and women-owned business enterprises (“WBEs”) have equal access to contracting opportunities and that the City’s current program remains legally defensible and administratively successful.

A disparity study involves compilation of evidence to determine whether the City may implement race- and gender-conscious contracting remedies and, if so, how to narrowly tailor its program. The study will determine the City’s utilization of M/WBEs and the availability of M/WBEs as a percentage of all firms in the market area and relevant industries. The study will analyze whether there are disparities, if any, between the availability of M/WBEs and their utilization on City construction contracts and related subcontracts, and throughout the Chicago area economy as a whole.

The study will further examine factors necessary for entrepreneurial success, such as access to business capital, bonding, networks, suppliers, etc. It will also gather anecdotal evidence of any continuing effects of past or present race and sex discrimination, and the impact of the current M/WBE program. Another important component is a review of the City’s current M/WBE program and recommendations for future initiatives and enhancements.

Colette Holt & Associates (“CHA”), a Chicago-based nationally recognized expert team on disparity studies and M/WBE programs, was selected to conduct this study. CHA is partnering Sandi Llano & Associates, Inc., a recognized and respected leader in the Chicago area on supplier diversity programs.

How can you be involved? The participation of stakeholders and business owners is critical to the study’s outcomes in two important ways.

First, the study team will contact businesses to confirm information on specific contracts and/or to receive additional contract information that is currently not available or accessible to the City. CHA will rely on prime firms to supplement data not available from the City. This information is critical to developing an accurate analysis of the utilization of M/WBEs on City projects. With the support and assistance of business owners, the study will present a complete picture of the City’s construction contracting activities. Some firms will be contacted to provide such data. CHA will work with the firms to make the process as easy as possible.

Second, interested persons can be part of the process for anecdotal data collection through several channels. CHA will hold stakeholder small group interviews to obtain information about the experiences of their members. It is very important that stakeholder organizations, such as industry organizations, community groups and chambers of commerce with an interest in the City’s M/WBE Program and contracting activities, help to distribute information to their members, so that all firms can participate. Next, we will conduct small group interviews of business owners; these sessions are designed for participants to share experiences and insights. CHA will also administer an electronic survey to collect additional information. The information generated from these data collection methods will be an important component of the analysis of whether the M/WBE program remains narrowly tailored. To learn about sessions pertinent to your business or organization, please email CHA at  We also welcome written submissions or other evidence.

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