CGriggs Speaking 1

Cornelius Griggs, GMA Construction Group founder and Army Commendation Medal recipient, is being recognized with the 2019 Interise Impact Award. The award recognizes alumni of the StreetWise ‘MBA’™ curriculum who have demonstrated exceptional revenue growth, job creation, and community impact.


Founded 10 years ago from Griggs’ home office, the construction firm now occupies a 5,000 square-foot space in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood and provides construction management and design-build services in the affordable housing and education sectors, among others. Griggs’ personal experience of growing up in Chicago’s underserved communities, specifically in the city’s famed Austin and Cabrini-Green public housing systems, has fueled the transformative work that his company is doing in the city. “The projects we focus on impact our community. Growing up in the community, what I noticed is that we had a lack in education, affordable housing and healthcare,” he tells ABC Chicago.

In 2016, Griggs took Interise’s SBA Emerging Leaders course in Chicago with Dr. Adam Callery, owner of Sagesse Lumiere Small Business Coaching and Griggs’ nominator for the Interise Impact Award. He credits the experience for positioning him to think strategically about the growth of his business, and empowering him to “step out of [his] comfort zone and push the envelope of GMA.” Griggs also explains that the connections forged through the class proved to be an incredible asset in providing opportunities for contracting and access to funding resources. For instance, two SBA-guaranteed loans in 2016 and 2017 allowed the company to upgrade software and expand its team of constructors.

Paramount to GMA’s success, according to Griggs, is its ability to operate primarily with a team that reflects the communities that the company is trying to reach. As such, not only is the entire senior team of GMA’s 87-person staff comprised of minorities and women, but on a project-to-project basis, the company prioritizes hiring directly from the communities they’re serving in. In one of its most recent projects, a transitional housing project on the East Park Apartments in the west side of the city, 27 out of the 115 people the company contracted to work on the project were from the area. Griggs believes this strategy to be a principal community wealth-building approach. “That’s the primary way to impact the community– put the dollars back in that community so that they have a chance to recirculate themselves in those same communities,” he says.

GMA’s growth has been unparalleled. Not only is the company’s track record of job creation off the charts, its annual revenue growth rates have been remarkable.The firm’s sales went from one to seventeen million dollars just between 2015 and 2018, and its bonding capacity stands at a towering fifty million dollars– and the world is taking notice. GMA’s list of awards and recognitions include the James Tyree Award, presented annually by the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce to a small business that has demonstrated growth and philanthropic value, the SBA 2019 Illinois Small Business Person of the Year Award, Metra’s 2018 DBE Award, and now Interise’s 2019 Impact Award. Congratulations to Griggs and his team at GMA for the incredible work they’re doing.

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