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Local Businesses Could Get More City, University Work Under New Programs

By Sam Cholke | March 18, 2014 7:46am
 World Business Chicago and local government and universities are partnering to give small businesses a better chance at scoring contracts.
CASE and UChi Local
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GRAND BOULEVARD — World Business Chicago announced a push Monday to get the city’s largest businesses and institutions to contract more with their smaller neighbors.

“You get your first success and the second is a lot easier,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel at a news conference for the launch of Chicago Anchors for a Strong Economy at the Parkway Ballroom, 4455 S. Martin Luther King Drive.

The initiative will play matchmaker connecting the University of Chicago, the Illinois Institute of Technology, Rush University Medical Center and others looking for local businesses when it needs to buy some chairs or have an event catered.

“It’s maddening,” University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer said. “We have all these construction and business endeavors, and we needed a way to leverage these expenditures to catalyze growth on the South Side.”

According to Emanuel, the program came out of conversations he had with Zimmer about the University of Chicago’s own initiative, UChicago Local, which also launched on Monday.

The university is committing to adding 10 local businesses from south lakefront neighborhoods to its supply chain and will provide training in business skills.

Chicago Anchors for a Strong Economy will start with 20 local businesses. The businesses must have a local presence, at least three employees, $1.5 million in annual revenue and have been in business for at least three years.

The participating businesses will get training and be matched with contract opportunities at the University of Chicago and its hospital, the Illinois Institute of Technology, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Rush University Medical Center, Cook County and the City of Chicago.

“We are elated to be part of it,” said Cliff Rome of Rome’s Joy Catering, who gave officials a tour of the kitchen that provides catered meals to many of the participating institutions. “If we can employ in the community, we can support the community.”

Emanuel said the goal is to expand the program to 20 of the city’s largest businesses.