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Flossmoor plan seeks more diverse suppliers

The Village of Flossmoor is looking to do business with minority-owned firms and other diverse companies.

Since late last year, Flossmoor has been attempting to build a more diverse supply chain for the numerous goods and services that the village requires in areas ranging from public works construction projects to tech support to office supplies and much more. 

In November 2019, the village posted a notice on its website inviting companies to register with Flossmoor and to indicate whether they are minority-owned, woman-owned, veteran-owned, LGBTQ-owned or disability-owned.

“Whenever possible, it is our goal to seek pricing or proposals for goods and services from businesses that seek the diversity of our community,” the notice states.

Trustee Diane Williams, an early supporter of supply diversity, said it’s appropriate for Flossmoor to seek suppliers that reflect the village’s wide-ranging makeup.

“We absolutely have a diverse community in terms of race, age, single-person and multi-person families, sexual orientation and in other areas as well.” Williams told the H-F Chronicle. “Our supplier base, however, is not truly diverse. We need to fix that.”

Larger governmental and business units started focusing on supplier diversity years ago, Williams said, and some smaller governments have begun that process through adopted policies and more informal methods. Williams said she and other Flossmoor residents started asking about minority and woman-owned suppliers a few years ago but “we did not begin a serious conversation until our 2017 Strategic Planning process.”

Flossmoor Assistant Village Manager Allison Matson, who is directing the supplier diversity project, said the Strategic Plan set diversity as a key element as the village moves ahead into the future.

Matson said the village began mapping a supplier diversity plan at the end of 2019 after she and Village Manager Bridget Wachtel met with Nancy Conner, a consultant recommended by Williams. Conner had previously worked for the City of Chicago on vendor selections for O’Hare Field, Williams said.

Conner suggested three initial steps toward implementing the program, Matson said.

First, the village needed to build and publish a supplier registration form so that vendors can indicate there are interested in doing business with Flossmoor. That form remains posted on the Flossmoor website.

The second suggested step, Matson said, is for the village to seek a quote or proposal from at least one diverse supplier for projects or contracts that require quotes and bids. 

“We are implementing this in public works by sending out bid packets to certified minority-owned businesses as well as for technology projects,” Matson said.

The third suggested step is to hold a supplier meet-and-greet so that village staff and officials we can get to know new vendors. That project is on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic but will be scheduled as soon as possible.

Matson said Flossmoor has hired one minority-owned business since the start of the project last fall. The village is working on a new phone system and needed a firm to help with the Request for Proposal (RFP). Riviera Consulting, of Richton Park, was chosen for the job.

“We found a local supplier, minority-owned, and they have been a good match for us,” she said.

Flossmoor invited a number of certified diverse construction companies to bid on this year’s Motor Fuel Tax street repaving project, which this year has a $450,000 budget. The village board approved a contract for the first phase of the project on July 6.

Bid packets were sent to 23 firms, including 18 certified diverse companies. But of the five companies that submitted bids for the project, none were diverse firms. 

“This is our initial step toward finding more diverse suppliers,” Matson said. “We are going to learn from it and move ahead.”

Flossmoor is also contacting other governmental units that have established supplier diversity programs, including Chicago, Cook County, Oak Park and Evanston. Matson said she does not know of any other south suburban communities that have official supplier diversity programs.

“The end goal is to get more suppliers to bid and to have more diverse suppliers,” she said.

Williams said the diverse supplier initiative “is not about our current vendors,” many of whom have worked with Flossmoor for several years and have met the village’s expectations.

“Maybe the level of expectations can be raised,” she said. “Perhaps some of the minority firms will be the ones to raise that bar.”

Williams said the time is right for Flossmoor to live up to its slogan of “Welcoming. Beautiful. Connected.”

“With today’s loud outcry for justice and equity we are reminded that if we want to genuinely be a ‘Welcoming. Beautiful. Connected.’ community we must welcome, share our beauty and become connected to those suppliers that have certified business enterprises,” she said.

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