Home Advocate Nelson Carlo, advocate for minority entrepreneurs.

Nelson Carlo, advocate for minority entrepreneurs.


Nelson Carlo owned several manufacturing companies in the steel industry, including Carlo Steel Co., and was a strong advocate for minority-owned contractors in the construction industry.

“Nelson was a story maker for Latinos and very specifically for Puerto Ricans, but for all Hispanics, for bringing together Latinos and African Americans to increase our participation in all sectors of society in Chicago, in Illinois and the Midwest,” said Charlie Serrano, a Chicago businessman who champions trade with Puerto Rico. “It takes a visionary.”

Carlo, 83, died of natural causes on September 11 in Clare assisted living community on the Gold Coast, his 29-year-old wife Maritza Marrero Carlo said. A longtime South Loop resident, Carlo recently suffered multiple mini-strokes, his wife said.

Born in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico, Carlo moved with his family at an early age to New York and then to the West Side of Chicago. He attended Farragut High School.

After a stint in the Navy ended in 1962, Carlo held several jobs before becoming a sales and purchasing trainee for Griffiths McKillen Steel Co.

This was Carlo’s entry into the steel industry, and in 1968 he was hired as a salesman at Abbott Specialty Metals on the Southwest Side, a metal fabricator that made products for commercial, industrial, and defense customers. , including the manufacture of test bombs for the US military. . In 1980, military contracts accounted for about 85% of Abbott’s business.

Carlo helped to more than triple Abbott’s sales, and by 1973 he had purchased a 45% stake in the company. He soon bought out the founder of Abbott with a loan from the Small Business Administration and expanded his reach by starting a separate company that made restaurant equipment.

“I make a point of hiring Spanish speakers or blacks,” Carlo told the Tribune in 1977. “We’re in a labor surplus area, but we don’t have the problem of agents immigration officers arriving at our doorstep and chasing busloads of our employees. These people are skilled workers and stable residents in the community.

The Small Business Administration’s Midwest Region named the Abbott Group its “Builder of the Year” in 1980.

“Nelson was just fearless,” said Joe Williams, a friend and fellow entrepreneur who, like Carlo, advocated for minority-owned businesses. “He felt that if people had a mandate (to hire women and minority-owned businesses), they should comply.”

In the 1970s, Carlo also helped organize Americana Federal Savings and Loan, which was the first Hispanic-owned financial institution in the Chicago area.

In 1991, Carlo purchased another steel company, Alert Steel Products, and renamed it Carlo Steel Co. The company was a passenger terminal contractor for O’Hare International Airport in the early 2000s and Little Village High School. Carlo Steel also fabricated steel for many West Side homes.

Carlo worked with the City of Chicago to help create its Minority and Women-Owned Business Certification Program.

“He was just looking for fairness in business for all of us so-called ‘minorities,'” said Hermene Hartman, N’DIGO editor and longtime friend. “For him, that meant women, that meant African Americans, and that meant Hispanics. It was at the forefront of his work. He was a real inspiration to many people.

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After the global financial crisis, construction stopped and in 2011 Carlo decided to close Carlo Steel. However, instead of retiring, he started working for a friend who owned a south side cabinetry company, Amberleaf Cabinetry.

“Nelson introduced them to developers and general contractors so they could start to grow, and they’re doing extremely well now,” Carlo’s wife said.

Carlo was a founding member of the Hispano-American Construction Industry Association.

A first marriage ended in divorce. In addition to his wife, Carlo is survived by one daughter, Antoinette Yannias; one brother, Joseph; and two grandchildren.

Services took place.

Bob Goldsborough is a freelance journalist.

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