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U of I Issues “Sheltered Market” Request for Proposals for IT

RFP is a first for a state public body

April 1, 2015

CHICAGO - The University of Illinois has issued the state’s first “sheltered market” request-for-proposal (RFP), for temporary information technology systems and services, in an effort to attract greater contract participation by businesses owned by minorities and females.

The groundbreaking RFP was posted on the Illinois Public Higher Education Procurement Bulletin website located at http://go.uillinois.edu/ShelteredMarket and comes after years of work by the state to review and address what it concluded were disparities in contracting IT and telecommunications services by state entities. The RFP is open to minority- and female-owned firms certified under the Business Enterprise for Minorities, Females and Persons with Disabilities Act.

A sheltered market is statutorily defined as a “procurement procedure whereby certain contracts are selected and specifically set aside for businesses owned by minorities, females and persons with disabilities on a competitive bid or negotiated basis.”

In 2013, the Illinois Business Enterprise Program Council declared that anecdotal information and a disparity study showed that certain sectors of the IT/telecommunications industry were being unfairly excluded from state business and it established a sheltered market. Until now, no state agencies, including public universities, had issued a sheltered market RFP.

The proposal seeks vendors to provide temporary staff and IT services as needed to augment those provided by university staff on the Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield campuses. U of I officials project the initiative could result in about 30 qualified firms receiving a total of about $10 million annually by the fourth year of the program.

“The U of I strongly supports the sheltered market initiative,” said Michael Bass, senior associate vice president and deputy comptroller. “Diversity and inclusion are important principles for us to uphold and we’re eager to utilize the tools available to achieve our goals.”

The sheltered market RFP for IT services was a priority for the U of I and is the result of lengthy negotiations and cooperation among the university’s information technology and procurement offices, and the state higher education procurement office, according to Sharla Roberts, director of the U of I’s Office of Procurement Diversity.

“This RFP should allow us to provide an impetus for an important sector of the business community in Illinois and may allow these businesses to grow and prosper,” Roberts said.