Center for Research and Service Receives MacArthur Foundation Grant to Study Minority Contracting for Public Construction Contracts in Illinois


The Center for Research and Service (CRS) at Illinois Institute of Technology has established the Minority Contractors Technical Assistance Center (MCTAC) and received a $350,000 grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to study what obstacles minority contractors in the state of Illinois face when attempting to acquire large, publicly funded construction contracts. CRS is one of the country’s premier, university-based research and consulting services firms.

The grant covers 15 months of research that will focus on how contractors are chosen to receive municipal construction projects. George M. Langlois, executive director of CRS, is the principal investigator of the study, with Jayne Jackson serving as the project manager.

Despite city and county ordinances and state laws mandating minority participation in government contracts —at least 26 percent participation for Chicago, 24 percent for Cook County, and 24 percent for the state of Illinois—minority contractors only receive a small fraction of government contracts. In addition, agencies awarding contracts have inconsistent methods of tracking their progress toward reaching minimum participation rates.

The MCTAC research team will survey minority contracting firms, large private-contracting firms, and governmental agencies to identify the specific problems that minority contractors and subcontractors may face that prevent them from bidding, winning bids, and being hired for municipal projects at the city, county, and state level. The data collected will then be used to propose programs to overcome the identified barriers that prevent minority contractors from receiving more contracts.

“This research, in addition to addressing obstacles for minority contractors, has the potential to provide the real career opportunities and economic development for historically disadvantaged populations,” explains Langlois. “What we learn could help our high schools and junior colleges develop or supplement curricula for those students seeking careers in the construction trades.”

The impetus for this grant was originally conceived by Paul King, founder and retired CEO of UBM Construction company and longtime construction industry activist, and later developed by Illinois Tech’s former Vice President for Community Affairs Leroy Kennedy.