Martinez Frogs keeps growing through Illinois Tollway’s Technical Assistance Program


Ricardo Martinez launched his business more than 20 years ago with one dump truck that he drove himself. Since that humble beginning, his company, Martinez Frogs Inc., has expanded to include about 15 employees and now takes on jobs involving excavation, demolition and concrete work.

Today, the firm is continuing its growth by working on a demolition project for the Illinois Tollway along the planned route of the new I-490 Tollway along the western edge of O’Hare International Airport.

Martinez credits his confidence to bid on that work to his participation in the Tollway’s Technical Assistance program, which is specifically designed to help small, diverse firms compete for work on agency construction projects.

“The Technical Assistance program has been instrumental in helping us gain the skills needed to compete and win opportunities with the Tollway,” Martinez said. Barely a year after first taking part in the Technical Assistance program, Martinez Frogs will be doing demolition work on an old copper pipe factory that must be removed to help clear a path for the I-490 Tollway, which will provide western access to O’Hare Airport.

The Melrose Park company began planning and securing permits in August for the project, with field work beginning in the fall.

The Technical Assistance program from the Illinois Tollway helps both growing and established transportation-related construction firms – including disadvantaged, minority- and women-owned business enterprise (D/M/WBE), service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSB) and veteran-owned small businesses (VOSB) – participate in Tollway construction projects.

“We’re proud that our Technical Assistance program, along with other development initiatives offered by the Tollway, is helping small firms grow,” said Illinois Tollway Executive Director José Alvarez. “The program also creates a larger pool of qualified contractors to bid on projects, which ultimately provides better value to Tollway customers.”

Martinez’s firm was recruited to the program by the Hispanic American Construction Industry Association, a trade group and program partner that works to create diversity in the construction industry.

“The Illinois Tollway’s program has opened opportunities for companies like ours that might not otherwise have them,” Martinez said.

Attending night classes, Martinez gained skills in business administration and project management that have been instrumental in creating new opportunities for the company.

“The services were customized and helped assess our strengths, challenges and needs,” he said. “The program equipped us with the information we needed to know to get started and take our business to the next level and successfully compete for Tollway work.”

There are two levels in the program for participating companies: Level 1 is for companies with no experience bidding on Tollway projects, while Level 2 companies have some experience working with the Tollway but are looking to expand their partnerships with the agency.

The skills he gained through the Technical Assistance program have allowed Martinez Frogs to expand beyond Tollway projects, though Martinez says he will continue to participate in the program to gain additional skills that will help keep his company growing.

“The Technical Assistance Program has helped our business grow,” Martinez said. “I encourage other businesses to look into the program and take advantage of its development opportunities that will help your business achieve more opportunities.”

Since its inception, the Tollway’s Technical Assistance Program has provided support and training to more than 680 firms working to succeed and grow. There are 12 locations providing technical assistance for emerging businesses in Chicago, Cook County, the south suburbs and Rockford.

As a result of the Tollway's investment in the program, approximately 1,766 bids have been submitted by clients since 2017, including 377 on Tollway projects. In 2019, 167 of the bids submitted on Tollway projects resulted in 34 firms winning work as primes or subcontractors on 25 contracts.

Information on the Illinois Tollway’s Technical Assistance Program and how to get started can be found by visiting the Illinois Tollway’s website.