U.S. Minority Contractor Association’s Evening with Engineers Marks Largest Gathering of Its Kind
Private Developers Mandate for MBE/WBE Participation Drives Success
The U.S. Minority Contractors Association (USMCA) recently held its third annual “Evening with Engineers” Stakeholder Reception at the Belvedere Events & Banquets hall, in Elk Grove Village, Illinois. The one-of-a kind networking event was designed to increase the capacity of minority-owned businesses to participate, as stakeholders, in the construction and professional services sectors of the U.S. economy.
“Moving our firms from subcontractors to prime contractors is critical at this time when you have tens of billions of dollars in new construction projects getting underway, right here in the Chicagoland area and across the state,” explains Rev. Larry Bullock, president of USMCA.
Rev. Bullock sounds off a litany of public and private projects. “You have the State of Illinois’ $45 billion capital plan, several private projects: Lincoln Yards, Project 78 in South Loop, the Casino on Chicago’s South Side and the construction to be built over Lake Shore Drive, all worth $40 billion or more, and the O’Hare Expansion, that’s another $8 billion or more.”
“With these huge, multi-billion-dollar new construction projects, you’re looking square in the face of massive design/engineering opportunities,” he continues. “So, it was critical for us, this year especially, to bring as many people together as we could.” Another driving force for the phenomenal success of this year’s Evening with Engineers event, which Bullock points to, is an executive order signed by former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel that requires private developers seeking plan development zoning approvals to report on their efforts to solicit and hire minority-owned and women-owned businesses.
“Many of the private developers have little or no experience working with minority-owned firms. That’s one challenge,” said Bullock. “Another big challenge is identifying minority-owned firms that really want to get involved in the public and private sectors.”
The U.S. MCA is a professional trade association of minority owned and operated businesses. The association provides technical assistance to help encourage and prepare its members to bid on public and private sector projects. This includes assistance with bonding, mentor-protégé partnerships, business management classes taught by thought leaders, and exposure to large firms. In turn, these activities serve to introduce large firms and government leaders to minority business owners.
Evening with Engineers was attended by a diverse group of more than 80 private developers, prime contractors, leaders from various levels of government, as well as a minority-owned engineering firms. The event was presented by the U.S. MCA Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Educational Foundation.
The STEM Foundation is a 501(C)(3) organization that utilizes professionals within the USMCA to create and provide educational and training opportunities that serve to guide and encourage local youth to pursue advanced degrees and careers in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics fields. One of its many programs is a curriculum for under-represented minority students currently attending Chicagoland schools. This new STEM initiative inspires students to ask questions, identify challenges, probe new techniques and create solutions in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics disciplines.
All proceeds from the Evening with Engineers Stakeholders Reception were contributed directly to the STEM Scholarship Fund, which will award scholarships to 10 students by the end of 2019.