CTA highlights ability to work with and create opportunities for Disadvantaged and/or Small Business Enterprises

Dec. 28, 2023
In 2023, CTA was able to connect DBEs and SBEs with $171.6 million in contracting awards to 84 certified firms, an 11 percent increase from 2022.

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) highlighted its successes in 2023 to work with and create opportunities for Disadvantaged and/or Small Business Enterprises (DBE/SBE). 

Largely driven by the efforts of the dedicated Diversity Programs Department, in 2023, CTA was able to connect DBEs and SBEs with $171.6 million in contracting awards to 84 certified firms—an 11 percent increase since 2022. The mission of the department is to create an environment of diversity, equity and inclusion by promoting dialogue and inspiring action with the contracting community and other stakeholders that will improve the CTA’s ability to level the playing field and establish diversity as a critical component of the CTA’s contracting practices. 

“We remain committed to the vision of CTA, which is why during the last year, we’ve been pulling out all the stops to exceed our goals of engaging and fostering new opportunities with the contracting community– who play a critical role not just here at CTA, but in ensuring the city of Chicago keeps moving,” said CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. “We recognize there are a lot of opportunities out there, which is why CTA is prioritizing DBE goals and SBE contracts. We look forward to welcoming even more diverse and small businesses to be part of historic projects here at CTA and in turn, multiplying the number of contracts in 2024.”  

CTA’s current mega-project – the Red and Purple Modernization (RPM) Phase One  – has provided 501 Economic Disadvantage Area (EDA)-residents with jobs that have provided more than 460,000 labor hours, earning them more than $25.9 million. EDAs are communities where the median income level is below $45k. 

This year, CTA’s Small Business Development Team hosted four quarterly events focused on getting news to the small business community about contracting opportunities. After the release of the Red Line Extension (RLE) Request for Proposals this fall, CTA's Diversity Programs hosted two additional outreach events, where the short-listed RLE primes were made available to the small business community.  

“The excitement around the RLE project was palpable and it was a proud moment to see more than 100 attendees at CTA to learn about future contracting opportunities, as well as steps on how to become certified to do business with the CTA,” said CTA Manager, Small Business Development and Outreach Misty Brown.  

Although the proposed RLE project is still in development, efforts are already underway to begin promoting contracting opportunities that are available before the start of construction work. Among the RLE project opportunities promoted this year includes: 

  • Hosting nine RLE "roadshows", where staff and representatives from the shortlisted primes/contracting teams addressed assist agencies’ membership groups and conference registrants to share information about the upcoming project and opportunities.  
  • Exhibiting the RLE mega-project at Chicago Build Expo 
  • Promoting the RLE project and opportunities available at numerous outreach events this past fall and winter. 

“Part of our department’s role is to find new ways to create opportunities and make connections,” Brown said. “We know that small businesses are the backbone of the U.S. economy, driving innovation, job creation and economic growth and we also know that government agencies play a crucial role in connecting with small diverse business owners. Leveraging this, we created a new avenue for building out opportunities for DBEs and SBEs.”  

In 2023, the CTA also hosted a new networking event in which a dozen local and state agencies provided attendees with an overview of how to do business with various government agencies, including city of Chicago, Cook County, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago and more. Representatives of these organizations provided in-depth information about their certification requirements and upcoming opportunities, with a question-and-answer session, as well as networking at the conclusion of the event. 

Other highlights of CTA’s efforts to assist area DBEs and SBEs include: 

  • Technical assistance: CTA continues to provide technical assistance programming for small businesses to help them expand capacity and subcontract on CTA projects. Diversity Programs provided training on topics ranging from bookkeeping to cyber security and business taxes. 
  • Building Small Businesses (BSB) program: This dedicated CTA program celebrated its first year as a full-fledged program in 2023. Combined with its pilot program through the RPM project, CTA’s BSB program has assisted more than 30 firms in securing more than $13 million in capital sourcing.  
  • Workforce partner agencies: To assist those interested in careers in the construction trades, representatives from the following CTA workforce partner agencies attended quarterly events to provide pre-apprentice training and placement assistance: Chicago Women in Trade, HIRE360, Revolution Workshop, Metropolitan Family Services and Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership. 

To help achieve its goal of increasing the number of DBE and SBE contracts and participation by underrepresented communities in 2024, CTA will be hosting a number of events.