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UChicago Local Looks to Strengthen Local Supplier-Buyer Relationships

For the longest time, when economic developers discussed anchor institution procurement strategy, UPenn was cited as the premier example of local procurement. Through its Buy West Philadelphia
program, UPenn has increased spending with local suppliers from $2.1 to over $90 million over the past two decades. These numbers are certainly impressive. Not to be outdone, other universities are attempting to raise the bar.
The University of Chicago is the most recent anchor to launch a significant local procurement initiative.
UChicago Local, an initiative designed to support the businesses in the mid-South Side neighborhood, will train entrepreneurs and prepare them for contract opportunities with UChicago and other large institutions. They are focused on eight procurement categories: consulting and professional services; food supplies; dining and social activities; plant and maintenance services; shop supplies and services’ non-shop supplies and equipment; equipment lease and rental; space lease and rental and transportation and livery services.
This first phase kicked off in mid-March, with 10 urban businesses participating in a capacity building program offered by ICIC’s alliance partner, Next Street. The three-day course offers training in core business skills such as talent management, finance, strategy and marketing.
In many ways, UChicago Local is the perfect complement to the University’s other business diversity efforts. The University already has a strong commitment to contacting with minority- and women-owned businesses. This place-based effort brings local buying and hiring strategies to often underserved neighborhoods. “The University of Chicago is committed to working in partnership with our surrounding
communities to spur economic opportunity on the mid-South Side,” said University President Robert J. Zimmer.
These local procurement strategies are critical for inner city growth. In 66 of the 100 largest inner cities, an anchor is the largest employer. Some 925 colleges and universities are based in the inner city; another 350 hospitals call an inner city home. While local procurement is only one of several roles anchors can play in their communities, it’s an ever-important one: combined, the nation’s universities, colleges and hospitals are collectively poised to spend $1 trillion on goods and services each year. Tapping even just a portion of this to spend in an anchor’s local community can have a significant impact on urban business and job growth.

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