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

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY MANNY RAMOS, STAFF RE­PORTER mramos@sun­times.com | @_ManuelRamo­s_ 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.

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 un­der­re­sourced 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.

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.

RICHMOND, Va. — Jerry Fal­well Jr.’s fu­ture at evan­gel­i­cal Lib­erty Univer­sity was un­clear late Mon­day, with a se­nior school of­fi­cial say­ing he had re­signed from his lead­er­ship post but Fal­well telling sev­eral news out­lets that he does not plan to leave per­ma­nently.

A for­mal an­nounce­ment from the school was ex­pected, ac­cord­ing to the school of­fi­cial, who spoke with The As­so­ci­ated Press on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause he was not au­tho­rized to dis­cuss the mat­ter. The dis­clo­sure of Fal­well’s res­ig­na­tion fol­lowed the publicatio­n of news sto­ries about his wife’s sex­ual en­coun­ters with a much younger business part­ner.

On Mon­day night, at­tor­neys for Fal­well and the school were ne­go­ti­at­ing the de­tails of a pos­si­ble de­par­ture, ac­cord­ing to a per­son close to the school’s board of trustees who also spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause the per­son was not au­tho­rized to dis­cuss it.

But sev­eral news out­lets quoted Fal­well as say­ing that he has not agreed to leave the post per­ma­nently, nor does he plan to.

Fal­well, who was al­ready on an in­def­i­nite leave of ab­sence, did not re­turn a call from the AP seek­ing com­ment.

The un­cer­tainty de­vel­oped a day af­ter Fal­well is­sued a state­ment to The Washington Examiner pub­licly dis­clos­ing that his wife had an ex­tra­mar­i­tal af­fair and say­ing the man in­volved had been threat­en­ing to re­veal the re­la­tion­ship “to de­lib­er­ately em­bar­rass my wife, fam­ily, and Lib­erty Univer­sity un­less we agreed to pay him sub­stan­tial monies.”

Fal­well said he was seek­ing men­tal health coun­sel­ing af­ter deal­ing with fall­out from the af­fair, which he said he had no role in.

“Over the course of the last few months this per­son’s be­hav­ior has reached a level that we have de­cided the only way to stop this preda­tory be­hav­ior is to go public,” the state­ment said.

But hours be­fore the school of­fi­cial con­firmed Fal­well’s res­ig­na­tion, Reuters re­ported that he knew of his wife’s af­fair and par­tic­i­pated in some of the li­aisons as a voyeur. The news agency based the in­for­ma­tion on an in­ter­view with Gian­carlo Granda, whom it iden­ti­fied as the man in­volved in the af­fair.

Fal­well, an early and ar­dent sup­porter of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, be­gan a leave of ab­sence from the univer­sity on Aug. 7 af­ter an up­roar sparked by a photo he posted on so­cial me­dia show­ing him with his pants un­zipped, stom­ach ex­posed and arm high around the waist of his wife’s preg­nant as­sis­tant. Fal­well has said the photo was taken at a cos­tume party dur­ing a fam­ily va­ca­tion.

Crit­ics of the photo said it was ev­i­dence of hyp­o­crit­i­cal be­hav­ior from the leader of a univer­sity where stu­dents must fol­low a strict code of con­duct.

AN­THONY VAZQUEZ/SUN-TIMES PHO­TOS

Lt. Gov. Ju­liana Strat­ton speaks about the cre­ation of two new Pro­cure­ment Tech­ni­cal As­sis­tance Cen­ters, one based at the Greater South­west De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion, 2601 W. 63rd St., where Strat­ton and others spoke Mon­day.

Depart­ment of Com­merce and Eco­nomic Op­por­tu­nity Act­ing Di­rec­tor Michael Ne­gron says the pro­cure­ment cen­ters “help right an his­toric wrong.”

STEVE HELBER/AP

The Rev. Jerry Fal­well Jr. and his wife, Becki, at a town hall in 2018.

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