Champaign City Council hires two new minority, women focused financial advisors

By Angelica Lavito

The Champaign City Council voted 8-0 to hire the financial advisers recommended in a study session at Tuesday night’s meeting.

Robert W. Baird & Co. and Comer Capital Group were recommended as co-financial advisers, and Kane, McKenna Capital was recommended for planning services. The recommendations follow the council’s goal of increasing minority and woman-owned business opportunities.

“We’re driving forward and not providing lip service to community,” said City Council member Will Kyles, District 1. “We’re making some things happen. We all know we have more work to do, but it’s great to highlight the positives in the initiatives that are being made as we go forth.”

Robert W. Baird and Comer Capital Group will have a variety of tasks, including working with city staff to determine the best way for the city to issue debt and analyzing costs associated with and potential revenue from new developments. 

Although the two firms will be working together, Baird will lead debt financings, and Comer Capital will lead financial analysis of development projects, according to the study session report.

Kane, McKenna Capital and McKenna & Associates filed a joint bid, and together they will provide planning services such as creating, adjusting and reporting for tax increment financing districts.

“In Baird’s proposals, Tom (a Baird representative) said that he’d be happy to partner with any firm we might have selected but did not partner with any firms in its proposal,” the city’s Finance Director Richard Schnuer said. 

Kane, McKenna Capital and GW & Associates filed a joint proposal with GW & Associates being a minority-owned firm. However, the study did not recommend GW & Associates to be hired. Comer Capital Group is a minority-owned firm, and Robert W. Baird & Co. is neither a minority-owned firm nor a female-owned firm.

None of the firms selected are female-owned firms, and three of Comer Capital’s employees are female, five of Kane and McKenna’s combined 12 employees are female and three of Baird’s six employees are female.

Comer Capital employs the most minorities, with eight of their 10 employees being minorities. At Baird, one of six employees is a minority and four of 12 employees are minorities at Kane and McKenna.

“We have to work with the demographics that the market presents us with,” said City Council member Michael LaDue, District 2. “We do our best to get minority and female-owned firms … I think this reflects our best good-faith effort. It’s still a field that is not dominated by women.”

However, the special study states that the companies are all in compliance with Champaign’s Equal Opportunity in Purchasing Ordinance, which strives to enhance economic opportunity for all members of the community.

Angelica can be reached at [email protected]