Increased diversity, local employment in new construction announced as goals of U. of C. and Medical Center

CHRISTOPHER AMATI
Staff Writer
 
The University of Chicago (U. of C.) and the University of Chicago Medical Center issued a joint news release, March 15, outlining their efforts to be more inclusive of women and minorities in their construction projects and workforce. In addition, a new mentor-protégée program was announced. 

The university is raising its goal for minority participation to 35 percent from 25 percent, matching the medical center’s threshold. Both are raising the minimum level of woman-owned firms from five to six percent.
 
There have been minimum participation goals in place at the medical Center on capital construction projects since 2001. Certified minority-owned and woman-owned contracting companies have been mandated, with the U. of C. requiring compliance on capital construction projects costing more than two million dollars since 2005.  Both institutions will also increase the mandatory rate of residency for workers on the projects to forty percent.  Contractors will be reviewed for compliance and face loss of eligibility for failure to comply.
 
The mentor-protégée program is designed to foster technical skill, expertise and knowledge in the fields of engineering, architecture and construction.   Intended to encourage the growth and ability of fledgling minority contractors by aligning them with those in the industry with deep knowledge, protégée firms will also receive assistance from programs offered by the University’s Polsky Exchange and the UChicago Local Initiative, which both work to connect local businesses to opportunities at the U. of C. and the medical center.
 
There has been an effort towards increased inclusion on the rise for several years. In 2012 members of the African American Contractor’s Association, the Save Our Community Coalition and other individuals concerned with the issue of community employment formed an exploratory committee to meet with the university over how to achieve greater participation in its projects.  The announced agreement is a result of that effort.  
 
There will be a body created, the Joint Economic Sustainability Committee, to monitor and develop a format to report on the forthcoming inclusion goal performance. It will also in the words of the news release…”collaborate to increase outreach to minority- and women-owned trade and prime contractors, coordinate community meetings…provide updates upcoming opportunities and develop programs… for increasing opportunities for minorities, women and local residents.”  

The committee will be chaired by Derek Douglas, vice president for civic engagement at the university, and consist of administrators from the university and the medical center.
 
 
 c.amati@hpherald.com