• Alex Nitkin
    JUL 10, 2020

    City extends program billed as ‘first step’ to setting veteran hiring goals

    Officials are building up a program aimed at pushing city-hired contractors to work with businesses owned by U.S. military veterans.
    Aldermen voted on Thursday to extend a plot program aimed at pushing city-hired contractors to subcontract with businesses owned by military veterans.

    Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36) spearheaded an ordinance in 2018 that created a “pilot program” to encourage the city’s Department of Procurement Services to set participation goals for “veteran-owned small local businesses.” The pilot expired in April, but members of the City Council Committee on Contracting and Equity Oversight on Thursday advanced a proposal by Villegas to extend the pilot until April 2021.

    The policy is designed as a companion to the city’s Minority Business Enterprise and Women’s Business Enterprise goals, which set benchmarks for companies that work with the city to subcontract with companies owned by non-white and female entrepreneurs.

    The ordinance directs the city’s chief procurement officer to enter into contracts with companies who sign veteran-owned businesses onto subcontracts equaling at least 1 percent of the total contract’s value. The city’s existing standards set a 26 percent participation goal for minority-owned contractors and a 6 percent participation goal for women-owned businesses.

    Veteran hiring goals would only apply to contracts greater than $10,000 in value, and in cases where at least three veteran-owned local businesses are certified by the procurement office in “one or more areas of specialty germane to the contract,” according to the ordinance.

    But before those standards can take effect, the city must build up a list of certified veteran-owned businesses who would qualify, according to Villegas That’s where his pilot program comes in, he said. Villegas served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps and is a veteran of the 1991 Iraq invasion.

    “There isn’t a program [for veteran hiring] currently in place right now, so these are the first steps to doing that,” Villegas said. “It establishes a process for veteran firms that want to be certified, and the more businesses that apply, the more opportunity the chief procurement officer has to apply goals for specific contract scopes.”

    Chicago Chief Procurement Officer Shannon Andrews said Thursday that her office has certified 51 Chicago firms as Veteran Business Enterprises, more than double from 20 businesses in 2018.

    Thursday’s meeting was led by committee vice chair Ald. David Moore (17). Ald. Carrie Austin (34), who chairs the committee, has been consistently absent from council and committee meetings since May.

    Motor row hotel tax breaks approved

    Also on Thursday, the City Council Committee on Economic, Capital and Technology Development voted to approve a Class L historic preservation tax incentive (O2020-104)

    to support transformation of vacant former Chevrolet showroom in the 2300 block of South Indiana Avenue into a 200-unit dual-brand Motel 6 and Studio 6 hotel. The project would also include 4,600 square feet of retail and commercial space on the ground floor.

    The developer, Indiana-based McCormick Hospitality South LLC, is spending $9.1 million to buy the property and another $35.6 million on the renovation project, of which nearly $27 million is covered by the tax break.

    Ald. Pat Dowell (3), whose ward includes the Motor Row District block where the project is planned, said she supports the tax credit.

    The committee also approved class 8 tax certification (O2020-3462) for a nearly 23-acre area in Avondale in the 31st Ward, meaning future developments in the area would be entitled to tax breaks. The certification was proposed by city officials because the area was assessed in 2015 as “blighted;” the certification was not tied to any development proposals.

    Aldermen also voted to appoint or reappoint 19 commissioners for Special Service Areas all over the city.

    All the approved measures head to the City Council for a final vote on July 22.

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