Governor Bruce Rauner recently signed an Executive Order to help ensure equal opportunity is provided to all Illinois businesses looking to contract with the State. Executive Order 16-08 directs the Illinois Department of Central Management Services (CMS) to oversee the implementation of the recommendations from a 2015 Disparity Study. It also directs CMS to investigate and, if needed, take appropriate steps to implement a sheltered markets initiative, to increase the number of businesses owned and controlled by minorities, women, and persons with disabilities doing business with the State.
“We need to lift up minorities, women, and persons with disabilities who have been overlooked within our society and are underrepresented in our economy,” Governor Rauner said. “Illinois is one of the most diverse states in the country, yet a 2015 study found that disparities exist between the number of minority-owned and women-owned businesses and their utilization on contracts and subcontracts through the State. This Executive Order seeks to address this disparity and ensure more minority-owned businesses are given the opportunity to do business with the State.”
EO 16-08 directs CMS to institute a number of reforms to how it currently administers State of Illinois Business Enterprise Program (BEP) to address the problems highlighted by a 2015 Disparity Study.
Many of these reforms are common sense administrative fixes to make it easier for BEP businesses to understand and access state markets, including: creating an electronic data collection and monitoring system to track BEP utilization; reviewing CMS’ own process for setting BEP goals on state contracts; and, reviewing the time it takes to get procurements out to the public and the time bidders have to submit responses to these procurements.
“This Executive Order, especially the thoughtful consideration of use of Sheltered Markets, is perhaps the most important step the State of Illinois has taken toward bringing equity to Black and minority-owned businesses in the state,” said Larry Ivory, President and CEO of the Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce.
Other reforms are designed to help BEP businesses become more competitive bidders, including: developing a mentoring program to pair BEP businesses with more established businesses; strengthening State-sponsored bonding and financial assistance programs; and, implementing procurement forecasts to increase BEP businesses’ access to contracting information.
“This is an important step for the minority business community and their ability to compete and grow,” said Sheila Morgan, President and CEO of the Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council. “The Governor’s action today shows a sincere desire to support economic development through inclusive practices in procurement in the State of Illinois.”
The Executive Order also directs CMS to determine whether the creation of “Sheltered Markets” can reduce disparities and, if so, take appropriate steps to establish sheltered markets in industry-specific areas.
Sheltered markets may be created when certain State procurement solicitations are specifically set aside for BEP-eligible businesses. These initiatives are able to target areas where discriminatory practices have prevented progress towards parity in contracting. They also complement and bolster the efforts of other BEP measures such as the state goal of 20 percent of contracts awarded to minority businesses.
Pursuant to the Executive Order, CMS must report on its results on July 1st of each year, beginning on July 1, 2017.