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Obama Foundation Builds Team to Promote Local, Diverse Hiring at the Obama Presidential Center

June 29, 2018 at 7:02 AM CDT

Two New Hires Include Former Director of Contract Compliance for Cook County and HACIA Program Director, and African-American Owned Economic Development and Consulting Firm

Chicago, IL – Today, the Obama Foundation announced the selection of Jacqueline Gomez as its Director of Real Estate Inclusion and Ernest R. Sawyer Enterprises, Inc. (ERS) as its Diversity Consultant, demonstrating the Foundation’s continued commitment to ensuring diversity and inclusion are at the core of its effort to build the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago.

Ms. Gomez and ERS will work closely with Lakeside Alliance -- the Center’s construction manager -- to increase opportunities for diverse suppliers and local businesses, as well as minorities, women, and other underrepresented groups in the Chicago area, to be involved in building the Center.

ERS also will serve a key oversight function, collecting and verifying data to both monitor and enforce the commitments of Lakeside Alliance and other project vendors, and will provide regular updates to the Foundation and public on this progress.

“We want to help underrepresented populations in Chicago overcome historical barriers to working on such a project and give them the opportunity and training they need to be part of the Center’s workforce,” said Roark Frankel, Director of Planning and Construction for the Obama Foundation. “This is the team who will help make that happen.”

Ms. Gomez will start at the Foundation later this summer. For the last five years she served as the Director of the Cook County Office of Contract Compliance, where she was responsible for the development, implementation, and administration of Cook County and County Health & Hospital System’s Minority- and Women-owned Business Enterprise Program. Ms. Gomez also spent several years at the Hispanic American Construction Industry Association (HACIA), where she served as a liaison between LatinX contractors and developers.

“I’ve been on the front lines of diversity and inclusion in Chicago for many years and know firsthand the challenges and opportunities that exist,” said Ms. Gomez. “I am proud to help the Obama Foundation create not just a workforce for the Obama Presidential Center, but also a model for how diversity and inclusion should work.”

ERS, an African-American and veteran-owned economic development and consulting firm, has more than 40 years of combined experience in the implementation of complex diversity and inclusion programs on behalf of public agencies and private entities. ERS has a successful track record of providing compliance, diversity and inclusion consulting services for clients on a variety of major projects, such as the Salvation Army’s Ray and Joan Kroc Community Center, Malcolm X College and School of Health Sciences, and the McCormick Place Hotel and Event Center.

“For ERS, this opportunity represents a chance to impact and help shape the futures of people in traditionally underrepresented communities in the city,” said Ernest R. Sawyer, President of ERS Enterprises, Inc. “This is an effort that goes beyond checking boxes to include measures of real progress for our community.”

The Director of Real Estate Inclusion and Diversity Consultant will play major roles in ensuring that the Obama Foundation and Lakeside Alliance meet their commitments to exceeding industry standards and surpassing their own milestones by awarding at least half of the expected $300 million+ of subcontracts on the Obama Presidential Center project to diverse suppliers, which in addition to minority and women business enterprises includes businesses owned by veterans, individuals with disabilities, and LGBTQ individuals. They also will focus on ensuring residents from the project’s neighboring communities have opportunities to work on the Center’s construction.

The Foundation laid out its commitment to creating the most diverse, local construction workforce in Chicago history as part of its  Community Commitments announced earlier this year.


Contact: Kate Berner, [email protected]