Press Releases

First-of-its-kind industry and labor partnership announces HIRE360, a regional workforce development and small business support program

This unique program will advance opportunities for community members and local businesses in manufacturing, construction, hospitality and the professional services industries.

Chicago’s largest developers, general contractors, local labor unions and United Way of Metro Chicago today announced the launch of HIRE360, an innovative cross-industry partnership designed to create an ecosystem that develops sustainable careers and business ventures for underrepresented individuals by encouraging prime businesses to invest, hire and empower an inclusive workforce and to promote small business development.

HIRE360 will enable greater access to employment opportunities for community residents in manufacturing, construction, hospitality and professional services through services such as recruiting, training and placement assistance for those looking for sustainable careers and/or continuing education.

Starting today, HIRE360 will provide resources for candidates interested in pursuing work in the building trades. These include test preparation and assistance; money to buy boots, books and tools for apprenticeships; case management services; referrals to jobs; and support throughout the apprenticeship process. For small and emerging businesses, it will add mentoring and a loan pool to help firms grow. Early next year, HIRE360 will expand beyond the construction industry to offer job services in the manufacturing and hospitality sectors.

“HIRE360 is a 360-degree vision for community-connected employment and business opportunities,” said Don Biernacki, HIRE360 board chair and senior vice president of construction at Related Midwest. “For Related Midwest, HIRE360 serves as an extension of our work for the last 30 years to invest in local residents and small businesses, so we’re thrilled to collaborate with members of the contracting, labor and developer ecosystem in this effort to build an economic engine that maximizes Chicago’s potential.”

“For years, labor unions and the development industry have worked to increase diversity in the trades through one-off, unconnected programs,” said Charise Williams, HIRE360 board member and Chicago Federation of Labor director of external affairs. "We haven’t made the progress we need. HIRE360 changes that by bringing together business and labor to create a pathway for underrepresented communities to access these jobs and the support needed to thrive in them.”

Through localized mentorship, direct investment and specialized services, HIRE360 will strengthen the participation of underrepresented populations in the Chicago area. HIRE360 will also mentor and grow minority business enterprise (MMBE) and women business enterprise (WBE) firms and create a supply chain of partners that are accountable to higher participation standards.

The partnership’s first initiative was the August launch of a fund offering lines of credit to help women- and minority-owned businesses better compete for construction work. The fund also guarantees capital for firms that have been previously left behind.

“Our industry, and our city, is stronger when we come together to address barriers to entry and help pave the way for the next generation of builders,” said Michael Meagher, president of McHugh Construction, vice president of the Chicagoland Associated General Contractors and HIRE360 board member. “With the commitment each of our partners brings to this project, there’s a tremendous opportunity for the many people and organizations HIRE360 can support.”

“The most powerful legacy that Sterling Bay and its fellow leaders in the building industry can create is one that empowers the industry leaders of tomorrow,” said Andy Gloor, chief executive officer of Sterling Bay. “HIRE360 embodies a collaborative spirit and universal commitment to providing vital resources and opportunities to minority- and women-owned businesses for participation in large-scale developments taking place across the City. Sterling Bay is extremely pleased to be a part of this innovative equity-building partnership.”

“This partnership will expand opportunities for both new and existing trade workers, connect businesses with the diverse talent that exists in Chicago and help train the workforce with the skills they need to get the job done,” said Ralph Affrunti, president of the Chicago & Cook County Building and Construction Trades Council. “HIRE360 is aimed at giving every community, every business and every worker in Chicago a fair shot.”

“Ensuring that the individuals and families who live in our neighborhoods can thrive is crucial to the success of Chicago businesses and, ultimately, the entire region,” said Sean Garrett, president and CEO of United Way of Metro Chicago. “With HIRE360, we’ll be able to leverage the expertise of our 200 community partners as we work together to increase the number of south and west side residents who have access to living-wage jobs.”

At the helm of HIRE360 is Jay Rowell, who was recruited for his leadership capability and performance in both the public and private sectors. Previously, Rowell was the deputy treasurer of Illinois, overseeing the state’s $31 billion investment portfolio, where he focused on increasing investments by minority- and women-owned firms. He also served as the director of Illinois Department of Employment Security where he created a no-cost HR recruiting program that helped thousands of people get jobs.

For more information and a full list of partners, visit