Workshop aims to connect business owners, state contracts

EAST ST. LOUIS – A state agency will play host to an educational workshop and business networking event geared toward small and diverse entrepreneurs on Sept. 17, at the East St. Louis campus of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

The goal is to connect business owners with like-minded professionals and raise awareness about opportunities to participate in state contracts. The workshop is one of a series of ongoing events around the state.

The event will be hosted by the Department of Central Management Services’ Business Enterprise Program, which promotes economic development through its certification program for small and diverse businesses and veteran-owned businesses across the state, along with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. It is also supported by area legislators, including state Sen. James F. Clayborne, D-East St. Louis, state Rep. Eddie Lee Jackson Sr., D-East St. Louis, and state Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea.

“The Illinois economy is on the upswing and this upcoming event at SIUE will be an excellent opportunity for business owners and professionals from all industries to gain insight and access to information about doing business with the state of Illinois,” Acting CMS Director Simone McNeil said. “We encourage business owners throughout the Metro East region and all of Southwestern Illinois to take full advantage of this opportunity. These kinds of networking and educational events can open doors and lay the foundation for successful partnerships with the state.”

“Reinvigorating the economy takes hard work from every segment of society. This type of collaboration between businesses, universities and state government is an important part of that effort,” Clayborne said.

“It’s important that we provide Illinois businesses with the expertise and information that allows them to compete for state-funded projects,” Hoffman said. “Whenever possible, state resources should be used to put Illinois taxpayers to work.”

The workshop from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Sept. 17, in Building D, Room 1007, at 601 James R. Thompson Blvd., is open to the public at no cost. The agenda includes information about how to become certified to do business with the state; the state contracting process; financing options, tax incentives and financial assistance for training; the vendor payment program; and opportunities for one-on-one guidance to business owners.

The state of Illinois has been making steady progress in creating opportunities for a diverse array of businesses to participate in contracting opportunities with the state. In Fiscal Year 2013, BEP vendors achieved more than $320 million in contracts, or more than 31.1 percent of the total contact dollars subject to the BEP goal. This exceeded the goal of 20 percent set in the state’s BEP law by more than 11 percentage points.

The BEP program works to assist businesses owned by minorities, women and persons with disabilities participate in contracting opportunities with the state. BEP now also administers the Veterans Business Program, which provides opportunities for veteran-owned and service-disabled veteran-owned small business owners to compete for state contracts. To learn more about the BEP program, visit: http://cms.illinois.gov

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