Business fair aims to promote higher education opportunities for minorities


Illinois Public Higher Education Cooperative (IPHEC) held the Higher Education Diverse Business Opportunity Fair at the I Hotel and Conference Center in Champaign on Tuesday, July 25.

By Senait Gebregiorgis

Illinois Public Higher Education Cooperative (IPHEC) hosted the Higher Education Diverse Business Opportunity Fair at the I Hotel and Conference Center Tuesday, which aimed to support groups such as women, minorities and veterans in networking with business and university leaders. 

IPHEC works with thirteen college campuses and nine public universities in the state of Illinois.  

Tracy Sullivan, IPHEC member, said they hope to continue to
host diverse business fairs throughout Illinois.

“We try to be in different regions regardless of where the
vendors are so it’s convenient for them to attend,” Sullivan said. “So today
there was a focus more on construction, so you have a lot of architects and
engineers and different construction kind of people here today.”

Dale Morrison, member of the Office of Procurement Diversity, said the fair also
aimed to teach about the procurement process – to buy or obtain goods and
services – and becoming certified as a vendor in the state of Illinois.

of the things that this type of fair does is introduce them to the process, how
to bid, how to get those opportunities and to meet those key people that make
those decisions,” Morrison said. “So now they can start forming a partnership
with these departments so they can later bid and actually become a contractor.”

Fair attendees, who were identified as “vendors,” had the chance to
visit booths of various companies and explore business opportunities available at several universities in Illinois. Similar
to a career fair, recruiters at the booths would learn about what the vendors do
and what types of businesses they own. From there, the vendors would be matched up
with a particular department compatible with the type of services they provide.

pretty much need all types of goods and services at the university in order to
operate,” Morrison said. “That goes from construction firms to professional
services firms. We need lawyers here, we need attorneys, we need accountants,
we need financial people, so anything that you can almost think of that the
university needs, those are the people who are invited to come and participate.”

Jill Menezes works in the purchasing department as a contract coordinator at the University
of Illinois at Springfield
. She said
after vendors have the face-to-face opportunities for networking with
business owners, she advises them to continue that same communication after attending
the fair.

they attend these events – it’s what I tell them a lot when they’re at the
booth – go through the U of I directories and contact some of the departments
that they really think would utilize some of their services,” Menezes said.
“And either try to set up a meeting with them, send them an email, but in some
way contact them so they can be more aware of what they have to offer.”

said it’s important for vendors to leave the fair feeling a sense of a
beginning to a developed relationship.

fairs give these small firms an opportunity to meet face-to-face with the
people they’ll be doing business with, and they can build trust with each
other,” Morrison said. “(The vendors) get to know the University needs, and the
University gets to know what their capabilities are. You need that kind of
partnership in order to do business with one another, and that’s what these
fairs do.”