State’s $2 million investment to help small businesses earn government contracts

Procurement Technical Assistance Centers give free counseling, training and technical support to small business owners wanting to sell goods or services to the government.

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Illinois Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton speaks to the press about the expansion of Procurement Technical Assistance Centers at Greater Southwest Development Corporation at 2601 W. 63rd St. at Marquette Parkin Marquette Park, Monday, Aug. 24, 2020. | Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Illinois Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton speaks about the creation of two new Procurement Technical Assistance Centers. One will be based in the offices of the Greater Southwest Development Corporation, 2601 W. 63rd St., where Monday’s news conference was held.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

A $2 million government investment to help small businesses better compete for government contracts at the local, state or federal level was announced Monday.

This money, a mix of state and federal funds, will help establish two new Procurement Technical Assistance Centers in Chicago Lawn and Morgan Park — and also support the other seven centers already operating across Illinois.

Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton said investing in small businesses is important — and government investment is vital for them to thrive during a troubled economy.

“With government spending at an all-time high, these Procurement Technical Assistance Centers are essential in helping small businesses to grow and diversify and thereby helping to provide jobs and long-term careers,” Stratton said.

The centers offer free counseling, training and technical support to small business owners wanting to sell goods or services to the government. It also helps business owners gain proper certification before bidding on government contracts.

Both new centers are in under-resourced communities and will assist businesses owned by minorities, women and people with disabilities. The centers will be housed in the Greater Southwest Development Corporation, 2518 W. 63rd St., and the Far South Community Development Corporation, 837 W. 115th St.

Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Acting Director Michael Negron speaks to the press about the expansion of Procurement Technical Assistance Centers at Greater Southwest Development Corporation at 2601 W. 63rd St. at Marquette Parkin Marquette Park, Monday, Aug. 24, 2020.

Michael Negron, acting director of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, was among the public officials who spoke at a news conference outside the Greater Southwest Development Corporation, 2601 W. 63rd St., on Monday.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

The centers “exist to help right an historic wrong where government contracts flowed to connected insiders while leaving behind small and minority-owned businesses,” said Michael Negron, acting director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

Negron said the model is working. Just last year, the centers helped small businesses secure over 800 government contracts valued at over $1.1 billion.

The $2 million investment to the program comes from the state and the U.S. Department of Defense Logistics Agency.

Adrian Soto, executive director of the Greater Southwest Development Corporation, said the partnership with the state will help improve the quality of life on the Southwest Side. Opening the center in their facility will bring “much needed investment and resources” to their community.

The expansion “will not only help the businesses in my district and on the South Side gain better access to government contracts but will also help to heal the economic inequities our black and brown businesses and communities face,” said state Rep. Sonya Harper, D-Chicago.

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State, local and community representatives cut a ribbon to celebrate expansion of Procurement Technical Assistance Centers at Greater Southwest Development Corporation at 2601 W. 63rd St. at Marquette Parkin Marquette Park, Monday, Aug. 24, 2020. | Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Manny Ramos is a corps member in Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of issues affecting Chicago’s South and West sides

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