Northern Illinois University continues to move the needle forward on building partnerships with businesses owned by women, minorities, veterans and persons with disabilities.
The university increased its spend with vendors certified through the state’s Business Enterprise Program (BEP) by more than $6 million from FY18 to FY19, from $845,000 to $6.8 million over the one year period.
Antoinette Bridges, the university’s Director of Procurement Services and Contract Management, says this is quite a significant year-to-year increase.
“We are proud of the work our teams have done to bring these numbers up,” Bridges said. “We put a charge out to campus and asked our faculty and staff to be more inclusive in the purchasing process by providing opportunities to companies that are traditionally underrepresented. They stepped up to the plate and we want to say thank you.”
Several key initiatives contributed to the upward trend, including the Diverse Vendor Networking Fair, which allowed faculty and staff to network with more than 50 BEP vendors. NIU’s procurement teams also reviewed all existing contracts and added BEP components to most of them. And, they created opportunities for current clients that qualified as BEP vendors to complete the appropriate paperwork, become certified, and get listed in the state’s database.
Increasing vendor diversity and expenditures under the BEP program is a top university priority identified by the Board of Trustees and President Lisa C. Freeman. Bridges says NIU did not quite reach the $14 million goal that was set by the state for FY19, but she says continued teamwork will help push them closer to the mark. She says the teams in Procurement Services and Contract Management are available to work with colleges and units and offer tips on how they can hit their BEP targets.
Several training sessions are being held on Thursdays in the months of February and March where individuals with purchasing power can discuss methods designed to help increase BEP spends. They will also become more familiar with the new Small Purchase Policy, which requires multiple bids for purchases greater than or equal to $20,000. Registration for these sessions is available online.
Individuals are also encouraged to search the state’s BEP certification directory, find vendors that offer the products and services they need, and consider them when planning to make purchases. For assistance, feel free to contact the Office of Procurement Services and Contract Management at 815-753-1671.