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Minority owner gains a majority company

By David Steinkraus

A year ago, Santiago Garcia knew he had to expand his business in order to get more work. 

He had started his first business, GSG Material Testing, in 1995 as an environmental sampling company. Later he expanded it to offer other material testing services. But his big move came a few months before the pandemic began when he finalized the purchase of HOH Group, a well-known Chicago architectural and engineering firm.

It was a big step for someone who grew up in Pilsen and Skokie. 

“When I was growing up, when we went downtown, it was like another country,” Garcia said. 

To that younger self, having an office downtown was a symbol of success. Now he has an office on LaSalle Street, a few blocks from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, the Chicago Board of Trade, and Willis Tower, right in the heart of the city’s business center. 

He credits his parents’ advocacy of education as a key to his success. Growing up in Skokie, when it was largely Jewish, taught him how to deal with people of other views. 

“My parents showed me a lot of times you just have to work hard at it and don’t take everything as personal,” he said. 

He was the first to go to college among his cousins and brothers, and eventually earned a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in 1985. He still lives in Skokie with his wife Rosalia. One of their two sons, Gabriel, is a civil engineer who graduated in 2019, and their other son, Santiago Garcia II, is studying information technology. Garcia says his career would not have been possible without their support.

As he worked, he met Harry Hefter, who had started HOH Group in 1959. Hefter became a mentor, Garcia said, and gave him work. That relationship brought Garcia the opportunity to buy HOH. “He agreed to sell it to me because he liked me, and we worked together well,” he said.

Now, in the middle of the pandemic, business isn’t easy, but Garcia said his company is hanging in there. HOH is part of the first project management oversight contract for Metra and part of the general engineering contract for the Illinois Tollway.

What has been harmed is his ability to nurture the relationships that bring his company work. 

“I’m the type of person who will go out and meet with people, go out for lunch, and meet after work to talk business and socialize. And hopefully, they’ll provide me with some opportunities. But with the pandemic, basically, it’s just Zoom,” he said. “You’re communicating with them, but it’s not the same as when you see them one on one.” 

What he’s doing now is working as hard as possible to have work ready for the end of the pandemic. Many agencies—Illinois Tollway, Illinois Department of Transportation, Chicago Transit Authority, Metra — are looking at projects, and Garcia said he has been submitting proposals.

As a disadvantaged business enterprise and minority business enterprise, HOH could bring those qualifications to a partner who needs them for a job and needs the services HOH offers, he said. So another part of his search is looking for such partner companies. 

Another advantage is HOH itself, he said. Some companies offer only architecture or only one or two types of engineering services, but because HOH offers everything, Garcia said, he has more ways to attract clients. Right now he has about 30 employees. In the next five years, he hopes to increase that to about 100. 

“Only in Illinois, with a governor like Pritzker and a mayor like Lori Lightfoot, could a minority-owned business acquire a 60-year-old, majority-owned company and think they have a chance of succeeding,” he said. “I think I have a chance.”

Inicia cotización del agua en mercados de futuros 


El agua, la base de la vida en la Tierra, comenzó a cotizar en el mercado de futuros de materias primas debido a la escasez de este bien, cuyo precio fluctuará ahora como lo hacen el petróleo, el oro o el trigo, informó Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME Group).

La cotización del líquido vital será con el índice Nasdaq Veles California Water (NQH2O), que se basa en precios de las principales cuencas fluviales de California, donde la escasez del agua ha aumentado. Este valor podrá ser usado como referente para el resto del mundo en los mercados del agua, y tendrá  utilidad para agricultores, empresas e inversionistas.

CME Group dijo que la llegada del agua al mercado de materias primas permitirá una mejor gestión del riesgo futuro vinculado a este bien, ya que agricultores, fondos o municipios podrán protegerse o especular ante cambios en su precio. También permitirá una mejor gestión del riesgo asociado a su escasez, y en la correlación entre oferta y demanda en los mercados.

Los contratos de futuros no requieren entrega física del producto, solamente son financieros, y en el caso del agua están basados en el precio semanal promedio de los derechos de agua en el mercado de futuros de las cinco zonas de California con mayor volumen de transacciones de este tipo.

El Nasdaq Veles California Water Index (NQH2O) ya cotiza en el CME, el mercado de derivados más grande del mundo. Este índice inició hace dos años y mide el precio promedio ponderado por volumen del agua. Su uso valorará las expectativas de los principales actores del mercado, evitando recurrir a una estimación del precio futuro del agua.

La explotación excesiva de este recursos por el sector primario, la industria y el consumo humano, así como el cambio climático, han llevado a que este recurso sea cada vez más escaso. China y Estados Unidos son los principales consumidores del mundo de agua.

Según la Organización de Naciones Unidas 2,000 millones de personas viven en países con graves problemas de acceso al líquido, mientras que en los próximos años dos tercios del planeta podrían experimentar escasez de agua y millones de personas verse desplazadas.