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Syracuse University Hosts First-Ever Procurement Fair, Launches Building Local Initiative
On Tuesday, May 21, Syracuse University hosted its first-ever Procurement Fair as part of its new Building Local initiative, a three-pronged effort focused on opportunity, partnerships and business. The fair introduced local business enterprises—including those owned by women, minorities, veterans and others (referred to collectively as XBEs)—to opportunities with the University; helped local businesses and XBEs understand the goods and services used and needed by the University; and provided information on how to gain diverse business certifications.
Representatives from more than 100 Central New York businesses attended the fair, including Melanie Randolph, owner of Your Window to the World, LLC. “Events like [the Procurement Fair] are going to open doors for local businesses and create opportunities with Syracuse University,” says Randolph. “This gives us a more one-to-one relationship, where we can really work as a community and align our values together. The small businesses can come together and be greater together.”
“Syracuse University is committed to developing intentional, sustainable partnerships with local, small and diverse businesses. As these businesses succeed, so do the communities that surround them and so does Syracuse University,” says Vince Patriarco, executive director for purchasing.
The Building Local initiative launches as the Office of Community Engagement works to strengthen partnerships with local municipalities, nonprofit organizations and other community entities. The Building Local program seeks to expand participation of local business enterprises and XBEs in three ways: construction opportunities; the hiring of local residents, primarily those from communities in need of job opportunities; and the aforementioned economic growth through purchasing decisions.
“Building Local seeks to institutionalize the formal commitment Syracuse University has made in leveraging its own economic power to invest in the local economy in a sustainable, mutually beneficial and catalytic way,” says Bea González, vice president for community engagement and special assistant to Chancellor Kent Syverud.
Mark Jackson, executive director in the Office of Community Engagement, has spent two years turning the Building Local concept into a reality. “I questioned if there was a better way we as an institution can do what we’re already doing—spending money—and make a bigger impact here just by changing how we’re doing it,” he says. “That involves intentionality and looking for solutions.”
After extensive research on economic and workforce development best practices at other major universities, Building Local was created. In addition to the business portion that launched at the Procurement Fair, the opportunity and partnerships focus areas have gone through pilot processes.
Building Local: Opportunity seeks to ensure that XBEs and local businesses are afforded equal access to construction and design opportunities at the University. Through a pilot project at the National Veterans Resource Center (NVRC), Building Local: Opportunity launched under the advisement of the University’s Office of Campus Planning, Design and Construction. Many local businesses and XBEs were brought into the construction process of the NVRC, including Mattessich Iron, LLC, which is owned by service-disabled veteran Mike Mattessich.
Mattessich Iron is the steel contractor on the NVRC project, handling the ornamental and miscellaneous steel projects, including the stairs and handrails. This opportunity enabled Mattessich’s business to secure more contracts with companies for work at Syracuse University. Prior to this contract, Mattessich’s team primarily worked outside of Central New York; now, the workers are able to serve their local community and see their finished work regularly.
“I’m thankful to Syracuse University for stepping up,” says Mattessich. “The biggest benefit comes to young companies, providing them an opportunity to get their foot in the door and prove their worth to reputable contractors. If they can perform, they will succeed.”
This success brings many benefits to business owners, as more contracts come in and their companies grow. NaDonte Jones, founder of NJ Jones Plumbing LLC, is Onondaga County’s first and only Minority Business Enterprise master plumber. A subcontractor on Syracuse University projects for several years, Jones took on a new challenge with the NVRC plumbing project.
“Through Building Local, the money is brought into the local community and it goes back out,” says Jones. “The more economic flow a company like mine has, the better it is for the local community. It does its part to help the economy, schools and development, and combat unemployment.”
Through his contracts at Syracuse University and the quality of his work, Jones has grown his business 300 percent
over the last few years. He is continually expanding staff and prioritizes hiring employees from the city’s South Side. He is currently looking for a larger space to house his business.
“Building Local’s impact is economical, but is also influential to community morale,” says Jones. “The other day, someone came up to my employees talking about how they don’t see many people of color in our profession, and to have my men as role models is really valuable.”
Building Local: Partnerships focuses on leveraging relationships with local workforce development programs to hire new Syracuse University employees from those programs. These initiatives have been ongoing for over a decade at Syracuse University under the leadership of Sharon Cole, talent acquisition manager in the Office of Human Resources.
Karima Akins-Rattigan was about to enter ninth grade when she heard about the CNY Works program to place local students ages 16 to 20 in summer jobs. After a few placements off campus, Akins-Rattigan began a placement at Syracuse University, thanks to the Office of Human Resources’ partnership with CNY Works. She ended up working in the Office of Admissions in the College of Law, the College of Engineering and Computer Science’s Career Services Office, the Office of Multicultural Advancement and the Office of Human Resources.
“Never did I imagine this program taking me this far; these are dreams most teens never experience without the right contacts,” says Akins-Rattigan. “Being able to work on campus and knowing my interest in Syracuse gave me a drive I never knew I had.”
After her experience working on campus, Akins-Rattigan was motivated to apply to Syracuse University. She completed her undergraduate degree and now works in the College of Law Career Center.
González and Cole also work with the Syracuse City School District and Peaceful Schools, which collaborate on an after-school program that helps parents complete a series of assessment and light capacity building programs. Once parents successfully complete the program, González and Cole help them apply for jobs, including positions at Syracuse University.
This spring, 11 community members graduated from a culinary workforce training program offered through Catholic Charities of Onondaga County. Cole and Sue Bracy, director of Food Services attended the certification event at the conclusion of the program. All 11 were hired by Syracuse University.
“Some people can cook all day but can’t attach a résumé to a job portal. We are bridging that gap,” says Cole. Moving forward, the University is leveraging existing workforce development programs, convening five programs and hiring local community members from the programs.
The Building Local initiative follows the University’s 2017 economic impact report—Syracuse University Impact: Central to Central New York—which detailed the roughly $1.1 billion annual economic contribution the University makes to the region and the substantial investment it makes in the community.
For questions regarding the Building Local initiative, contact email@example.com.