Chicago United Unveils Plans to Fuel Job Creation through Minority Business Development

Business advocacy group aims to double its Five Forward Initiative™ participation by end of 2015

Sep 24, 2015, 09:00 ET from Chicago United

CHICAGO, Sept. 24, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Chicago United announced the expansion of its Five Forward Initiative, designed to strengthen the local economy and enhance job creation by supporting a stronger Chicagoland minority business enterprise (MBE) community. The advocacy organization is aiming to secure participation of 50 Chicago-based corporations and 150 local minority suppliers by the end of 2015.

The Five Forward Initiative is focused on creating strong collaboration between Chicago's business and MBE communities and nonprofit, civic and other strategic partners. Coordinated access to technical assistance in areas including business planning, opportunity identification, workforce development and access to capital will ensure that local minority businesses will meet the needs of Chicago's corporate community with innovation and expanded markets.  

The first phase of the program included 21 corporations that reported spending an aggregate total of over $350 million in 2014 with selected MBEs, an 82% increase over the numbers reported in 2008, the first year of the program. These MBEs increased their staffing levels to support their contracts and the subsequent economic activity further enhanced employment. Job creation was measured by the University of Illinois for the early adopters of the program. Total jobs creation measured by the program grew from 1,955 in 2009 to 4,781 jobs in 2014.

"Creating a more inclusive and business-friendly environment for MBEs is one of Chicago United's main priorities as we understand the pivotal role it plays for the larger, regional economy," said Gloria Castillo, president and CEO of Chicago United. "Generating economic growth of MBEs will not only create jobs in communities of color, allowing these businesses to increase capacity, grow in scale, and become capable of facilitating larger contracts; it will also drive regional economic growth."

The Five Forward Initiative has also proven to be an important tool to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the Committed Corporations' business diversity programs. To participate in Five Forward, Chicago area companies must commit to conducting business with five local minority firms over five years. As part of the Committed Corporation status, companies receive access to a progress benchmarking system, among other resources and tools, to aid in annual goal-setting and enhanced reporting.

"Five Forward helps shift supplier diversity from a transactional function to a more strategic value proposition requiring ongoing dialogue, goal-setting, and planning for growth opportunities with qualified diverse suppliers," said M. Michelle Blaise, senior vice president of technical services at ComEd, one of the participating Five Forward corporations. "This initiative delivers meaningful results and our company is grateful for the support and guidance of Chicago United."

When compared to other top ten U.S. markets, MBEs headquartered in Chicago are significantly underutilized by local companies. A recent study by Chicago United provides insight to how other markets have benefited from making concerted efforts to utilize minority firms within their region. The study found that Chicago ranks behind Los Angeles, Miami, Detroit, Houston, Atlanta, Dallas and New York in revenue generated by its large MBEs and those revenues have a strong correlation to job creation.

"Since joining the Five Forward program, we've been able to increase our staff by 200 percent," said Ed Encisco, president of Montenegro, a Roselle based MBE-certified print, paper and packaging solutions company. "When we discuss our involvement in the Five Forward program with our banker, he knows that it's not just a short term piece of business. We're capable of long-term planning; not just a couple months but a couple years."

Five Forward Committed Companies First Cohort:

  • Advocate Health Care
  • Aon
  • Aramark Healthcare
  • Ariel Investments
  • Baxter International Inc.
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois/Health
    Care Service Corporation
  • BMO Harris Bank N.A.
  • BP America Inc.
  • City Colleges of Chicago
  • ComEd, An Exelon Company
  • Ernst & Young LLP
  • GE Healthcare
  • KraftHeinz
  • Loop Capital
  • Macy's
  • McDonald's Corporation
  • Mesirow Financial
  • Microsoft
  • The Nielsen Company
  • Northern Trust
  • Northwestern Medicine
  • Northstar Lottery Group, LLC
  • Rush University Medical Center
  • SDI (System Development Integration, LLC)
  • The University of Chicago Medicine
  • University of HealthSystem Consortium (UHC)

To learn more about Five Forward or other Chicago United initiatives, please call 312-977-3060 or visit

About Chicago United

Chicago United is an advocacy organization that promotes multiracial leadership in business to advance parity in economic opportunity.  Chicago United supports the business community's need to maximize the use of corporate and entrepreneurial talent and brings together diverse senior business leaders to break through barriers to realize the benefits of diversity and inclusion.  Chicago United is the premiere business membership organization creating an environment where racially diverse CEOs and executive level managers can share common experiences to promote multi-racial leadership in governance, management, and business partnerships. It delivers best practices for diversity practitioners and fosters relationships among leaders who share common values.

For more information please visit


SOURCE Chicago United