Making History Today: Joan Archie

Diversity and equity is simply the right thing to do. Strong minority and woman-owned businesses contribute to strong minority communities. They create jobs and they will be a major segment of the US economy as we transition to a more diverse demographic.

A report from the National Supplier Development Council revealed that minority-owned businesses produce over $400 billion in annual revenue and actively employ either directly or indirectly 2.2 million people.

Additionally, minority-owned businesses contribute close to $49 billion in local, state
and federal tax revenues. To achieve success in business diversity, it is important to have a subject matter expert. Someone that will serve as a leader and advisor and advocate and a catalyst for change. And that's what I have tried to do in my role here.

Joan Archie, Executive Director of Business Diversity and Compliance, remembers the day when she realized she hit the goal set for participation by minority- and women-owned business enterprises (MBE/WBE) on her first major construction project at the University of Chicago Medicine, the Center for Care and Discovery (CCD).

The goal had been to award MBE/WBE firms 40% of the constructions contracts for the $750 million state-of-the-art hospital. She hit 48%. That translated to nearly $210 million in contracts awarded and paid to these firms. In addition, the economic benefit of Archie’s work was felt on the worksite, where minority and women workers made up 42% of the total workforce on one of the biggest projects on the South Side.

“I remember the day we did it. I could not believe it. I started to cry the day we hit that,” Archie recalled.

For Archie, this is meaningful work because advancing diversity and equity through construction compliance provides economic opportunity to small businesses and communities.

“Diversity and equity are simply the right thing to do,” said Archie, who leads a team of three compliance professionals. “Strong minority- and woman-owned businesses contribute to strong minority communities. They create jobs and they will be a major segment of the U.S. economy as we transition to a more diverse demographic.”

UChicago Medicine is committed to working MBE/WBEs on its many high-level construction and development projects, and Archie is critical to these efforts. From 2003 to 2021, certified minority- and woman-owned firms have received $485.6 million in economic benefit from UChicago Medicine’s capital and renovation projects.

Prior to joining UChicago Medicine nearly 16 years ago, Archie was a highly-sought-after construction compliance expert with the Chicago Urban League, where she was responsible for “developing and implementing projects, and assisting minority and female workers and firms in increasing their economic self-sufficiency and their potential.” In fact, UChicago Medicine hired her as a consultant in 2003 for the construction of UChicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital.

After working as a consultant, she was recruited to oversee construction compliance for the CCD project in 2007 by Michelle Obama, who was the medical center’s vice president for community and external affairs at the time.

Archie said that Obama told her, “’We are building the biggest building in the history of the campus, and I'd like you to come and lead the diversity charge.’”

Since then she has played important roles in dozens of construction projects, including the Adult Emergency Department and Adult Trauma Center, Center for Advanced Care at Orland Park, Center for Advanced Care at South Loop, Parking Garage B, Family Birth Center, and the Heart and Vascular Imaging Center, as well as major renovations and expansions at Bernard Mitchell Adult Hospital and the Duchossois Center for Advanced Medicine (DCAM).

Archie and her team will be front and center again for UChicago Medicine’s proposed $633 million, 500,000-square-foot cancer center, which will be the first freestanding cancer facility in Chicago. Pending regulatory approval, construction of the new facility will begin in 2023 and open to patients in 2026. The project is expected to create more than 500 construction jobs, and at least 41% of contract dollars will go to minority- and woman-owned firms.

“I see our projects as a tent. And that tent is big enough for everyone,” Archie said. “Through our diversity programs, our projects are better. They are better because everyone contributes from their unique vantage point. We find better solutions because of that. That is what I have tried to put together here during my time. That is what I have tried to do.”