A National Award-Winning Publication

A personal decision leads to a business opportunity

Civil engineer and owner of 2IM, Luis Montgomery, brings a passion for people and relationships to running his business.

By Ariana Hermosillo, Negocios Now

In 2002, Luis Montgomery and his wife packed up their lives and moved to London for his next role as a civil engineer. They welcomed two daughters and built a life there, but eventually found themselves at a crossroads: They liked living abroad but it was hard to be away from home and their extended families back in Illinois. 

Also pulling Montgomery toward Chicago was a former co-worker living there. His pitch, according to Montgomery, was simple, but convincing: You don’t have a job if you come back to Chicago so you’re starting from zero. If you’re ever going to start a business, this is the time to do it. 

Then, there was a job opportunity in Australia which Montgomery, a U of I grad, thought might put him on the path that he dreamed of when he initially went into civil engineering: international travel and splashy, large-scale projects abroad. In the end, family won out. Montgomery and his family moved back to Chicago.

Threaded through Montgomery’s journey are the bonds and relationships he’s built, both familial and professional. 

Engineering relationships and connections

Montgomery was born in La Plata, Colombia, but arrived in Chicago when he was just a toddler. His father, a U.S.-born American academic, returned stateside to pursue a PHd in sociology at the University of Illinois at Chicago with the family in tow. By the time they were set to return in the late 1970s, civil unrest and violence there kept them here. Montgomery didn’t lose ties with his home country, however. He was later able to spend summers in Colombia while also cementing his identity as a Chicagoan, living on both the north and south sides and eventually attending St. Ignatius College Prep.  

Today Montgomery’s company, 2IM, is a civil engineering and environmental services firm specializing in stormwater management. Their clients include the public sector, utility companies throughout the state of Illinois, and private developers. 

When Montgomery and his partner, Othan Ilgaz Ulger, named their venture, they incorporated they made sure to bring in their cultural and professional identities. 2IM is a play on “two engineers,” but pulls in the letter “I” from the Spanish word for engineer, “ingeniero,” and the letter “M” from the Turkish word for engineer, “mühendis.” 

Not only driven by the technical aspects of business, but Montgomery also cites the camaraderie of his peers and staff as a motivation. “People make your business,” Montgomery says. People like one of his employees, a Mexican immigrant who arrived to the United States as a young boy and has now found a mentor in another employee of Montgomery’s: a white American who grew up on a farm in central Illinois and is now an expert in hydraulic modeling for 2IM. “They’re like two peas in a pod,” he says. That connection and friendship between two people from seemingly opposite cultures make Montgomery proud to be in business. “That is a great American story.”

Taking lessons learned into the future

When Montgomery arrived from London he brought with him the sustainable water practices he learned while there. That knowledge has proven to be key to what is now his business’s specialty in stormwater sustainability and management.

After developing this and a couple of other areas of expertise, Montgomery says he had to learn a lesson: He had good people doing good work in their specialties and instead of trying to tack on others, 2IM needed to focus on growing vertically “where our talents are easily applied.” That lesson has led them toward notable projects across the state as well as in local airports, including the current O’Hare Airport terminal expansion project. 

Montgomery hopes to take the company’s disciplines and transfer them to other states and even internationally. His big dream is to do a project in La Plata in Colombia where he was born.

 

Rosa Escareño, Commissioner for Business Affairs and Consumer Protection

Rosa Escareño

City of Chicago

As commissioner for Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, Escareño is a cabinet member in Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot’s administration, bringing modernization and equity to Chicago’s marketplace.

Escareño has made public service her life’s work, and she has worked under three Chicago mayors. She has managed day-to-day operations and implemented policy reforms across multiple city agencies, and throughout her career has championed initiatives to enhance the quality of life of Chicago residents.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Escareño has been at the forefront
of Chicago’s business recovery, including administering $120 million in business financial relief and setting up protections for

essential workers. She has modernized enforcement to improve Chicago’s hospitality industry and night-life operations,

and to address problem industries. And she led labor initiatives such
as Chicago’s minimum wage, paid sick leave and fair workweek ideas.

Many years before taking her present position, Escareño was already a great friend of Negocios Now, providing us with useful information for entrepreneurs and helping in our constant search for stories for

our readers. She is a champion, opening doors of opportunity to all businesses in the city.

Escareño  holds a master’s degree in communications from Northwestern University and a bachelor’s degree from Loyola University Chicago.

Rosa Escareño is the El Amigo de Negocios Now Award-2020

Rey B. Gonzalez, CEO of El Valor

After 30 years of serving as chair of its board of directors, Gonzalez recently became president and CEO. Prior to coming to El Valor, he was vice president for legislative and community affairs at ComEd.
In addition to building and stewarding relationships with state legislators and community organizations, Gonzalez was involved with national external diversity initiatives for Exelon Corp, ComEd’s parent company. Prior to this position, he was vice president of corporate diversity for Exelon and vice president of diversity for McDonald’s Corp.

Prior to joining corporate America, Gonzalez was regional Midwest director of the National Council of La Raza and worked at the Chicago Urban League helping women

and minorities acquire work in the building and construction trades. Within three years at the Urban League, Gonzalez had placed more than 4,000 women and minorities in skilled, high-paying jobs.

El Valor became a model of bilingual, bicultural rehabilitation in Illinois and started the
first computer programming training center for people with disabilities.
Gonzalez is the co-founder and the board chairman of
the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute, a Chicago-based national nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that promotes education, civic participation and leadership development for Latinos and other disenfranchised groups.

Rey Gonzalez is the Negocios Now’s Community Champion Award-2020

Brenda Garza Karhoff, President, Founding Garza Karhoff Engineering LLC

Brenda Garza Karhoff, S.E., P.E., is the president and founding principal of Garza Karhoff Engineering LLC. Karhoff began her career interning at Illinois Department of Transportation District 5 in her hometown of Danville, Illinois, while attending the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. She received a bachelor’s degree in 1994 and a master’s degree in 1995 from the university and has more than 23 years of experience in a variety of projects.

GKE is located in downtown Chicago and provides structural and civil engineering consulting services in the transportation and building sectors. GKE is a certified disadvantaged business enterprise with the Illinois Department of Transportation/

UCP and a certified minority and woman business enterprise with the City of Chicago.
GKE currently works as a
team member with leading engineering firms on various projects throughout Chicagoland including the Illinois Tollway, IDOT, CDOT, CDA and the CTA.

Karhoff currently serves Hispanic American Construction Industry Association as board vice president and chair of the Membership Committee. She seeks to provide members with the knowledge and opportunity to improve business operations and enhance professional growth. She is also a member of American Council of Engineering Companies of Illinois and the Structural Engineers Association of Illinois.

Brenda  Garza Karhoff is the Negocios Now Latinas in Business Award-2020

Arthur Zayas Miller, CEO of MZI

Arthur Zayas Miller is President and CEO of MZI Group, Inc., which he founded in 1999.  MZI Group, Inc. is a Latino and Veteran owned Electrical Construction Company specializing in power and utility.  Before Mr. Miller started his own electrical business, he worked for F500 Corporations for over ten years as an Operations Manager.

 Additionally, Mr. Miller served in the United States Army. He is actively involved with United States Army Veteran Organizations such as Helmet to Hardhats and Wounded Warrior Program.  He also shares his time as a distinguished board member of the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, National Latino Education Institute, and Loyola University Medical Center. Arthur is also involved in many philanthropic endeavors such as Cystic Fibrosis and Juvenile Diabetes, The Foundation for Prader Willi, and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Arthur works at connecting communities he does work in and provides mentorships to small businesses.  Arthur is a dedicated Husband and Father. ”

Arthur is the Negocios Now Business of the Year Award-2020

ANA BELAVAL, Reporter

Entity:  WGN Morning News Around Town

Website:  www.WGNTV.com

Born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Belaval is one of the few reporters who has successfully crossed over to English speaking news after nine years at Univision. For the last 10 years she has been in charge of the Around Town segment for WGN Morning News, where she covers a variety of events, businesses and happenings in the Chicagoland area. She has won three local Emmy awards while at WGN TV. Beyond her work with the morning news, she substitutes anchors for CLTV and contributes to the community affairs show “Adelante Chicago.”

Helping Change the World

Mark Vargas

Age: 38

Title: President

Name of Organization: Licentiam

 

Mark Vargas is a trusted adviser and close confidante to some of the highest-profile political and business leaders in America. He is widely respected as a tech entrepreneur in health care, and as a political opinion writer and advisor. He has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald, Huffington Post, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, CBS Chicago, ABC 7 Chicago, ABC News, CNBC, Fox Business and the Fox News Channel.

From 2007 to 2010, Vargas served as a civilian within the Office of the Secretary of Defense on a special Iraq task force. The task force specialized in rebuilding Iraq’s and Afghanistan’s war-torn economies by attracting foreign direct investment opportunities and helping to facilitate public-private partnerships to create jobs and drive down the high unemployment associated with terrorist-related activities.

In 2009 he was awarded the Secretary of Defense Global War on Terrorism Civilian Service Medal. His civilian service at the Defense Department included 14 trips to Baghdad spanning two administrations.

Vargas is a regular panelist and guest speaker on issues related to entrepreneurship, technology and innovation, political affairs, media strategy and foreign policy. Vargas is a contributor for the Washington Examiner and Newsmax.

In March 2019, Judson University’s World Leaders Forum announced, “Conversations with Mark Vargas,” a highly influential speakers’ series where Vargas invites some of the most recognizable names in business and politics to join him for an informal, one-on-one conversation covering a wide range of topics. His inaugural guest launching his new speaker series was billionaire entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. Vargas earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Judson University where he served as student body president.

 

“Mentors provide invaluable advice, but if you want to boost your career, find your sticks of dynamite which will blow down doors and create instant opportunities for you.” –Mark Vargas

Helping Families Find Fun

Desiree Vargas Wrigley

Age: 38

Title: Founder & CEO

Name of Organization: Pearachute

 

Desiree Vargas Wrigley is founder of Pearachute, a company that helps parents and children find the best family activities in town.

Prior to launching Pearachute, she co-founded GiveForward, the world’s leading crowd-sourcing platform for people facing a major life event. Under her leadership, the company helped friends and family contribute nearly $160M to loved ones in need.

After graduating from Yale University, she worked at the Kauffman Foundation as a specialist in entrepreneurship and at Arabella Philanthropic Investment Advisors.

Most recently, she taught New Venture Discovery at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.  She has been named to Inc’s 30 Under 30, Crain’s 40 Under 40, one of Parents Magazine’s Most Inspiring Moms, a Forbes Woman to Watch, and she has appeared on Shark Tank, closing one of the largest deals on the show to date.

When not working, she enjoys spending time with her two young sons, stepdaughter, and crime-fighting husband.

Passionate about business development

Ivette Treviño

Age: 39

Title: Senior Director Business Development

Name of Organization: IHCC

Loretta Ivette Treviño as senior director of Business Development & Strategy at the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, she helps lead the premier Hispanic business, networking, advocacy and development organization in Illinois. She is responsible for managing and building relationships with corporate partners, members, and community leaders.

Treviño has had multifaceted roles with the IHCC in the last decade, from creating strategic events where she provides unique opportunities for the community to come together to build and foster relationships, to facilitating the IHCC + 1871 Latinx Incubator, working tech startups.

She has led the IHCC team in executing one of the largest gatherings of Hispanic business leaders in the Midwest, the Make the Connection!® IHCC Business Conference. Featured speakers have included former President Barack Obama, current Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin along with Nely Galan, founder of the Adelante Movement and Jahmal Cole, founder of My Block, My Hood, My City.

Treviño has a passion for economic development and supporting small businesses. A recent highlight was the first IHCC Women’s CEO Roundtable which convened 35 women CEOs and created a space to share challenges, opportunities and offer resources and support.

She received her Bachelor of Science in Business Management with a minor in Public Policy from National Louis University. She is an alumna with Mujeres de HACE and a current fellow for the class of 2020 Chicago Latino Caucus Foundation, Leadership Academy.

She currently resides on the Southwest side with her husband and children where they remain very active in sports like baseball, basketball and rugby.

“Lead with integrity and purpose for when you follow your passion it results in profound impact, empowers and breaks barriers”.

A Miracle Maker

Vanessa Torres

Age: 34

Title: Communication Director/ Producer

Name of Organization: The Miracle Center

 

 

Vanessa Torres began early on at the non-profit organization that utilizes the performing arts as a catalyst for personal growth, leadership development, academic advancement and community engagement for children, youth and families in the Logan Square/Hermosa neighborhoods.

As an alumna of the The Miracle Center (TMC),Torres personally experienced the impact it can have on the lives of young people. Well before TMC though, she developed a love of the performing arts that began when her parents signed her up for dance classes at the age of 4. While the choice was made in part to give their daughter an outlet for her hyperactivity, her parents unknowingly gave her a treasure map that led her to discover her passion.

In addition to her early love for dancing, her participation in TMC programming starting at the age of 10 broadened her views and gave her opportunities to perform in music and theater. Her desire to use the arts as a tool for changing lives based on her own background inspired her to learn and apply frameworks for cross-cultural engagement through the arts.

A graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a Bachelors in Political Science, the 1st-generation Boricua brings extensive experience in the performing arts and public relations sector.

Her passion comes from TMC, which inspired and empowered her to pursue an internship at the Center for Portuguese Language and Brazilian Cultural Studies. Her experience also extends to program management and media relations through employment with leading advertising agency FCB Global, where she served as a social media strategist and community manager. She serves as a “Power House Millennial” Theater Producer, where she is responsible for the managerial functions of the production venue, helping with financial backing, and hiring personnel for the creative production team.