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Newly installed Chief Procurement Officer Montel Gayles is tackling an old issue%uFFFDthe number of city contracts minorities, particularly African Americans, receive. In 2007, Chicago awarded 9 percent of $2.8 billion worth of contracts to African Americ

Gayles, 47, has been involved with contracts before. From 2004-2007 he served as Chicago’s Public Building Commissioner. In that post, he allocated roughly 30 percent, or $55 million worth of Kennedy- King College construction contracts to African Americans.

Now he is seeking to replicate that success citywide. Integral to Gayle’s aspirations is the construction management, or CM, contracting method, which he used to allocate the $190 million Kennedy-King contract.

Instead of awarding the project to a general contractor, who would then hire subcontractors, Gayles broke the project into pieces, covering areas like masonry and steel, and hired prime contractors for each.

The smaller sized contracts were easier for African American firms, which tend to be smaller, to bid on, Gayles said.

“These are subcontractors, but we treated them as primes. If I treat you as a prime over concrete, or over masonry, or [over] steel, now you can take and put [that] on your resume,” he added, noting that the title carries more weight. On April 9, the CM, and other alternative contracting methods, were approved in a new ordinance by the City Council.

The ordinance also applies to non-construction work, which comprises $2.5 billion of the city’s contracts, and includes professional services, commodities, architecture and engineering and equipment.

Arness Dancy, president of the Englewood Black Chamber of Commerce, described the ordinance as a “good first step,” but noted that it does not address bond insurance, which is difficult for smaller sized Black companies to secure.

“Basically, I see the ordinance more benefiting those that are not in the construction arena%uFFFDgiven that a bond is not needed,” Dancy said. Gayles said that his department is currently looking into bond assistance programs, but refused to provide details.

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