The University of Chicago today announced the launch of UChicago Local, an initiative designed to support local businesses on the mid-South Side, providing the training and connections to help them work with the University and the University of Chicago Medicine.
UChicago Local will offer programs and tools for business owners and job seekers in neighborhoods around the University. The first phase focuses on local business support, including efforts to make local vendors a larger part of University and UChicago Medicine procurement. That includes an intensive business skills training course to help prepare firms to better compete for business with UChicago and other large institutions. The first training will begin this week, with 10 mid-South Side businesses participating.
Future phases will include directories, marketing materials, and forums for vendors who want to promote their businesses to the University, and to staff, students, and faculty as potential customers.
“The University of Chicago is committed to working in partnership with our surrounding communities to spur economic opportunity on the mid-South Side. These efforts include our investment in the redevelopment of 53rd Street and other key locations, job training programs, home ownership programs, our business diversity programs and more,” said University President Robert J. Zimmer. “UChicago Local builds on those efforts while creating new, targeted opportunities for the University and the medical center to connect to talent and resources available in mid-South Side neighborhoods.”
In recent years, the University of Chicago has become a leader in the area of business diversity, through a strong commitment to increasing the number of women and minority suppliers in professional services and on new construction and renovation projects. While UChicago Local is not limited to women and minorities, it complements the diversity initiatives and adds a distinct component to the broader procurement strategy, which seeks to ensure the University and UChicago Medicine have access to the most innovative and creative talent available, and that mid-South Side firms have opportunities to compete for business.
UChicago Local will include programs for locally based businesses that provide goods or services that meet the needs of the University community. It also will link mid-South Side businesses to a network of leading institutions across the city through the University and UChicago Medicine’s participation in a new program called Chicago Anchors for a Strong Economy, led by World Business Chicago. Chicago Anchors for a Strong Economy was conceived after the University approached World Business Chicago about some of its early work to develop UChicago Local, which began in mid-2013.
“Increased economic opportunity in our neighborhoods will help make the City of Chicago a stronger center of local job creation and business growth, while also increasing our ability to contribute to the national and global economies,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “UChicago Local can serve as a model for how anchor institutions across the city can partner with CASE and World Business Chicago to drive the future of our city.”
UChicago Local will focus on the mid-South Side neighborhoods of Douglas, Grand Boulevard, Greater Grand Crossing, Hyde Park, Kenwood, Oakland, Washington Park, Woodlawn and South Shore.
“This initiative takes a more strategic approach to normal business activities within the University, including buying and hiring, so that we can have a greater impact in local communities,” said Derek Douglas, Vice President for Civic Engagement for the University. “Through UChicago Local, we can be a catalyst for revitalization in surrounding neighborhoods while creating and maintaining local jobs.”
UChicago Local will target prospective vendors in eight categories for University and UChicago Medicine procurement: consulting and professional services; plant and maintenance services; food supplies, dining and social activities; non-shop supplies and equipment; transportation and livery services; shop supplies and equipment; equipment lease and rental; and space lease and rental. The procurement categories were identified through an independent examination of the University and the medical center’s purchasing practices, partially funded by the Surdna Foundation through its Strong Local Economies Program.
“Anchor institutions like the University of Chicago are critical pieces in the creation of just and sustainable communities,” said Shawn Escoffery, Director of Surdna’s Strong Local Economies program. “Through this new focus, we believe the University can help drive the local and regional economy and create real opportunity in communities that have been disconnected from economic growth.”
UChicago Local will aim to help a wide variety of existing mid-South Side businesses grow. In the eight procurement categories, UChicago Local also will seek to attract businesses to relocate to the South Side or to launch new businesses to meet procurement needs within local neighborhoods. A specially formed task force of University and UChicago Medicine staff will help develop and promote opportunities to support local businesses across campus and regularly assess the effectiveness of UChicago Local efforts. The Office of Civic Engagement, which is leading the UChicago Local initiative, will convene the task force in the coming weeks.
“UChicago Local is an exciting idea that opens a door for a company like Inter City to be more successful and have that success trickle down to our employees,” said Jackie Dyess, owner of Inter City Supply Co., which provides medical supplies to UChicago Medicine. “We’re delighted to be one of the first businesses to go through the program and to potentially expand our work with the medical center.
UChicago Local will begin with an intensive three-day business skills course conducted by Next Street, a consulting firm nationally recognized for its work with small businesses and anchor institutions. The course, aimed at building the capacity of firms with limited experience working with large institutions, will serve as a pilot for a broader training program through Chicago Anchors for a Strong Economy. Training will focus on building capacity in core business skills, including talent management, finance, strategy and marketing.
Phase 1 programs also will include the following opportunities for businesses to connect to the University and medical center:
Local Business Showcase
- Business-to-Business (B2B) forums will create opportunities for local businesses to introduce their goods and services to UChicago Purchasing Staff.
- Business-to-Consumer (B2C) forums will create opportunities for local businesses to showcase their products and services to faculty, staff and students
Buy Local Campus Connection
- New Hire Introduction: Local businesses will have the opportunity to include their marketing materials in packets distributed to new University employees.
- Buy Local Directory: UChicago will maintain a directory of local businesses, products and services near the University’s campus. The listings will be available to the University community.