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Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner Grants Exclusive State IT Contract Bidding Rights to Minority-Owned Businesses

A Department of Central Management Services study found inequitable distribution of state contracts among minorities in information technology and other areas.

(TNS) — EAST PEORIA, Ill. — Minority-owned businesses will have an exclusive opportunity to bid on a wide-ranging information technology contract with the state under a program that has been on the books but never before exercised in Illinois.

Gov. Bruce Rauner announced the state's first Sheltered Marketplace on Wednesday at the Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce's 11th annual convention at Par-A-Dice Hotel, citing the need for reform of the state's contract procurement process.

"We've got to streamline it, simplify it, and make sure that small businesses have the same opportunity as the big guys that are all lawyered up," Rauner said. "We've got to change it."

While many of those procurement processes are codified in state law and can only be changed with agreement from legislators, the creation of the first Sheltered Marketplace — where only businesses owned by women, minorities and people with disabilities can bid on a state contract — came about through an executive order signed last month.

Rauner said he was prompted to initiate the first Sheltered Marketplace by a Department of Central Management Services study that found inequitable distribution of state contracts among minorities in information technology and other areas. The administration is working to open similar bidding processes for state health care, construction and other contracts.

Michael Wons, the state's chief technology officer, said the information technology contract in the first Sheltered Marketplace generally will center on combining redundant computer systems in multiple state agencies into a single platform, an idea borne out of the elevation of information technology to a cabinet-level position rather than individual positions within multiple state departments.

The contract, he said, will be open for bids beginning in a matter of weeks and awarded on an accelerated timetable.

Larry Ivory, president of the Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce, called Rauner's announcement a historic moment for minority business owners and the state. Harry Alford, president of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, said he would write to the governors of every other state in the country asking them to emulate the Sheltered Marketplace initiative.

Rauner also pointed to a pilot program focused on minorities started earlier this year as a way his administration is working with black business owners to grow the overall economy.

The Advancing the Development of Minority Entrepreneurships (ADME) aims to pair business owners or start-ups with economic education, mentors and access to financing in Chicago, Rockford and Peoria.

If successful in the pilot cities, the program will expand around the state, said Jimmy Odom, the senior policy adviser for minority-owned business at the Illinois Department of Commerce.

ADME began accepting applications online Wednesday for the program at and will accept them through Oct. 23. Odom said 10 to 15 entrepreneurs from each pilot city will be selected through an evaluation process created by Gallup.

The goal is to build a network for minority business owners that will nurture and sustain more minority entrepreneurs new to the marketplace.

"ADME is a first step," Odom said. "We have to build an ecosystem."

Matt Buedel is the Journal Star business reporter. He can be reached at 686-3154 and Follow him on Twitter @JournoBuedel.


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