Gov. Blagojevich announces new IDOT effort to create more
opportunities for small and minority road contractors
Mentor-Protégé Program matches big contractors with
small firms; Goal to increase percentage of road contracts that go to
Disadvantaged Business Enterprises
New program complements Governor’s ongoing efforts to increase
opportunities for small businesses
SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich announced today that
the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) launched a groundbreaking new
Mentor-Protégé Program designed to help disadvantaged business enterprises
(DBE), small and minority owned companies, to succeed and compete for larger
road construction projects.
“Our goal is to make sure small and minority contractors have a
fair shot at winning contracts. This new program gives smaller companies that
are breaking into the business an opportunity to succeed by working with larger
contractors that have succeeded in the business and are willing to share their
knowledge,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
The new program has been approved by the U.S. Department of
Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) as a three year pilot
project. It will be offered in four of IDOT’s Districts around the state,
including D-1 in northeastern Illinois, D-4 based in Peoria, D-6 based in
Springfield, and D-8 in Metro East.
“The FHWA applauds IDOT's development of one of the nation's
first FHWA-approved Mentor-Protégé programs, and we look forward to working with
the State to find additional opportunities for DBE firms," said FHWA
Administrator J. Richard Capka. "Efforts like these will go a long way to
leveling the playing field for small, socially and economically disadvantaged
businesses, including minority- and women-owned enterprises."
The federally approved Mentor-Protégé pilot program compensates
mentor companies for the administrative expenses associated with the effort and
teams up a larger, experienced firm with contractors that are certified as a
Disadvantaged Business Enterprise in Illinois. The deadline for potential mentor
and protégé firms to apply for the first round of the program is February 16.
Under the new program, once a mentor firm and a protégé are
teamed up, they will jointly establish a Development Plan that outlines their
goals and expectations, sets benchmarks and creates a monitoring and reporting
mechanism that will be used to judge the effectiveness of the effort.
The plan may include training in the following areas: business
planning, recordkeeping, technical assistance and use of equipment, capital
formation, loan packaging, financial counseling and bonding.
The mentor and protégé will work together toward the goal of
winning contracts for the protégé, and the two contractors will have the option
of forming joint ventures to bid on projects.
“IDOT has raised the bar itself by increasing the statewide goal
for the percentage of contracts going to DBE's from 12 percent in 2003 to the
current goal of 22.7 percent,” said IDOT Secretary Timothy W. Martin. “But
building roads is a tough and complicated business, and that’s why we are moving
forward with this creative new program targeted at small contracting firms.”
The Blagojevich administration and IDOT, through its Office of
Business and Workforce Diversity, have moved aggressively to break down barriers
that prevent small and minority contractors from succeeding in the road
IDOT has upgraded and expanded the supportive services it offers
to DBEs to enable them to compete for contracts. Under this administration, IDOT
opened walk-in DBE Resource Centers in both Chicago and East St. Louis.
Previously, contractors seeking assistance had to travel to Springfield.
In order to give small firms a fair shot at competing for work,
IDOT has unbundled a number of larger contracts on the Dan Ryan and Kingery
reconstruction projects in Chicago and Cook County into smaller contracts.
IDOT’s efforts to level the playing field for DBEs got a boost
in 2005 when a federal judge upheld the constitutionality of the program and
found that it was narrowly tailored to remedy past racial and gender
To qualify for the new Mentor-Protégé Program, the mentor must
have at least five years of experience as an IDOT contractor. The protégé must
have at least three years of highway construction experience and also be
certified as a DBE through the Illinois Unified Certification Program.
Progress in the program will be overseen by IDOT’s
Mentor-Protégé Oversight Committee.
For more information, interested parties should go to the IDOT
IDOT’s initiatives fit in with the broader effort of the
Governor’s administration to create opportunities for small and minority
Last year, the Department of Central Management Services (CMS)
launched an initiative to highlight how entrepreneurs across the state can
Sell2Illinois – and expand their capacity, enhance their credentials and grow
their revenues – by making the State their next customer. CMS helps State
agencies purchase more than $10 billion in products and services every year, and
the agency targeted small companies as well as businesses owned by women,
minorities and persons with disabilities throughout the state to compete for
The agency set aside significantly more contracts for small
businesses, and aggressively raised revenue thresholds so more firms qualify for
the Small Business Set Aside (SBSA) program. As a result, more state money now
flows to small Illinois firms. Last year, the state awarded a record $38.5
million in set-aside contracts to small businesses – nearly triple the amount of
the year before.
Additionally, entrepreneurs that are women, minorities or
persons with disabilities can more effectively compete for state contracts.
Spending with diverse firms through the Business Enterprise Program (BEP)
increased by $30 million – an 8 percent increase – to $384 million in 2005.
Business owners can learn how to compete for this business by visiting
Gov. Blagojevich has also created, for the first time, a
formalized structure for coordinating services to small businesses and
entrepreneurs across the state through the Illinois Entrepreneurship Network
(IEN). The Governor has opened almost 20 entrepreneurship centers throughout the
state that are a vital component of the IEN, which also includes Small Business
Development Centers, Procurement Technical Assistance Centers, International
Trade Centers and other partners.
The IEN website,
www.ienconnect.com, features a free business needs assessment and a referral
within 24 hours for personalized, face-to-face assistance. Entrepreneurs who
call toll-free to the IEN information center (1-800-252-2923) can also connect
with service representatives who will assess their business concerns and direct
them to the local resources that best meets their needs.