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Employee Spotlight: Jonathan J. McGee, Director of Office of Business and Workforce Diversity

Raised in Chicago, where he still lives today, Jonathan J. McGee is the new director of the Office of Business and Workforce Diversity. McGee previously served as director of Regional Economic Development and acting director for Minority Economic Empowerment, both for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

In these roles, McGee was responsible for managing a team of senior economic development managers and minority business development leaders to drive economic opportunity throughout the state. Here are some of his thoughts about his job and life outside of IDOT.

What does your current job entail?

As director for the Office of Business and Workforce Diversity, I serve as the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise liaison officer for the U.S. Department of Transportation on behalf of IDOT, reporting to the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Transit Authority and Federal Railroad Administration. Specifically, through the Bureau of Small Business Enterprises, OBWD certifies small, disadvantaged businesses in accordance with federal regulations, ensures federal contract compliance, statewide goal attainment through supportive services, technical assistance, outreach and networking opportunities.

Additionally, I lead the Bureau of Civil Rights, which ensures that federal and state contractors eliminate and remedy unlawful discrimination in employment and in the delivery of services, through the development of policies and programs regarding civil rights in the state transportation arena. It is our goal to ensure that employment opportunities and transportation programs, activities and services are provided in a non-discriminatory manner.

What’s the most important impact of your work?

We seek to close the gender and racial wealth gap for Disadvantaged Business Enterprises, communities and workers by removing structural and systemic barriers that limit or obstruct federal and state contracting or workforce opportunities. We have the highest federal DBE goal in the nation. If we can move the needle on DBE participation in Illinois, we can serve as a benchmark for the nation.

What’s your favorite part of the job?

My favorite part of the job truly is being the voice of equity for IDOT on all federal and state contracting projects and workforce diversity. We know that many communities, businesses and individuals have been systemically disenfranchised from accessing government contracts, funding and support, therefore OBWD aims to solve this critical issue.

We solve this issue by cultivating an ecosystem of economic support that includes public, private and not-for-profit stakeholders committed to ensuring that we provide capacity building, technical assistance and financial and business supports to all DBEs and potential DBEs in the state.

Anything to highlight that you plan to do at IDOT?

The one initiative that I would like to highlight is revamping Supportive Services and the Today’s Challenge, Tomorrow’s Reward conference. I led the Community Navigator Program at DCEO, which was a $10 million community outreach and small business support program made up of community-based organizations that understand and support their communities.

Additionally, with my robust event-planning background, I look forward to launching the most comprehensive subject-matter-expert conference for the transportation industry in Illinois.

Anything more to tell us about your office? 

One thing my office is responsible for that many people would not know is that the director of OBWD serves as the DBE liaison officer. What that means is that I am the main point of contact for the state of Illinois and the federal agencies we partner with, including the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Transit Authority and Federal Railroad Administration.

What education or experience has prepared you for your current role?

I hold bachelor’s degrees in political science and law enforcement, a master of Professional Studies in political management from George Washington University and an MBA from the Quinlan School of Business at Loyola University. Furthermore, I bring robust experience in equitable economic development, business attraction and retention, workforce development, and diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Beyond your regular work duties, what do you do to contribute to your profession or community?

I serve on the associate and executive board for the Gray Matter Experience and am an active alumnus in the Loyola University Quinlan School of Business community. Additionally, I am very active in civic organizations and serve as a thought leader on social and civic impact.

What do you like to do outside the office?

I like to travel, go to brunch and happy hour with friends, and spend time exercising when I can find the time.

Anything else you’d like people to know about you?

I am extremely passionate about public service and serve on the executive board for the Gray Matter Experience, which aims to cultivate the next generation of Black entrepreneurs. This is important because it aligns with the work that I am doing here at IDOT to drive more equity in the construction industry.