A Partnership for Opportunity

Thomas O'Neill III, Peoria County Board

Peoria County's Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) Ad-Hoc Committee was created to address a glaring lack of county dollars spent on contracts with—and procurements from—minority, women and disadvantaged-owned businesses (collectively known as MBEs). Representatives from minority advocacy groups, local trade unions, institutes of higher education, private business and the faith-based community join Peoria County board members and staff on this committee.

The MBE Committee's mission is to create an environment that stimulates greater participation from all parts of the community with particular emphasis on new and minority-owned businesses. The MBE Committee has adopted a strategic plan and formed three subcommittees to achieve its mission through the following goals.

Participation: Increase MBE participation within the Peoria County organization.
Since its establishment, the MBE Committee has experienced much progress, most notably a 10-fold increase in spending with minority-owned businesses over the previous five-year period, and an increase in the County's bid threshold. To simplify the bidding process, the County has enhanced its website to include information on becoming a vendor and how to register for a bid. We have also contracted with
www.CertifiedMinorityBiz.com, an online tool that notifies minority business owners of compatible bid opportunities with Peoria County.

Capacity: Build MBE capacity within the community.
With assistance from the City of Peoria, the Black Chamber of Commerce, the State of Illinois and other partner agencies, Peoria County was able to develop a comprehensive database of local minority-owned businesses. Establishing this list gives the County a starting point from which to build capacity.

Peoria County provides financial assistance to entrepreneurs through its Government Assistance Program, or GAP Loan Program. Local entrepreneurs and business owners seeking to expand their businesses are able to get low-interest loans through Peoria County to help fill the "GAP" that may exist between bank financing and personal investment. For more information on the GAP Loan Program, please call (309) 672-6052.

The MBE Committee hopes to create a "one-stop shop" to serve as a central resource for entrepreneurs. Short-term tasks include sowing partnerships with local advocacy groups and service providers, cultivating a successful mentoring program from these partnerships, and facilitating resources for budding businesses. These steps will increase MBE capacity within the community by providing a conduit from conception to completion for entrepreneurs and existing MBEs hoping to expand.

Outreach: Raise awareness of the opportunities and resources available to new and minority business owners.
The MBE Committee is using many outlets to raise awareness of opportunities and resources that are helpful to local MBEs. Committee members are also bringing attention to minority business owners' success stories. Outreach methods include articles in local publications, e-newsletter features, participation in business trade shows, periodic workshops and forums, and personal contacts with local business owners. Raising awareness of the committee and its efforts is crucial to the program's success; if people do not know a resource is available to them, they cannot benefit from the resource.

Interested persons, entrepreneurs and minority business owners may contact Peoria County for more information about our MBE initiative: (309) 672-6931 for our purchasing officer or (309) 495-4860 for our EEO specialist. iBi

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