PCS helps UO departments looking for vendors become better community partners

Looking for a vendor? Need bids for a competitive purchase? The purchasing and contracting services department provides an online database, the UO vendor portal, to help locate and reach out to certified and self-reported vendors, including small and minority- and women-owned businesses.

The university is also inviting departments to participate in the UO reverse vendor fair early next year. The fair gives purchasers a chance to meet with representatives from community businesses that are interested in contracting with the university. Registration for the event is now open, with host gifts for all table registrations.

In an effort to increase its outreach to minority, women and emerging small businesses, also known as MWESB, and provide those historically underrepresented firms with the best opportunity to compete for contracts, the UO requires departments conducting competitive procurements to solicit at least one response from a certified or self-reported minority, women or emerging vendor.

Departments are also encouraged to search the UO vendor portal for new vendors whenever making purchases, including those where competitive bids are not required. The portal also allows departments to provide feedback on their experiences with vendors to help others with their purchasing efforts.

Through the portal, UO purchasing wants to strengthen the connection between local businesses and the university and help the UO become a better community partner.

“Ultimately we would like to see a larger cross-section of local businesses represented in our purchasing,” said Cathey Susman, director of Purchasing and Contracting Services.  “We want to help our departments locate cutting-edge businesses that promote diversity and sustainability and directly support our local community.”

Another cornerstone of university’s outreach is the UO reverse vendor fair, which will be held Feb. 25 in the Club at Autzen at Autzen Stadium. One of the top events of its kind in the state, purchasers from UO departments and local and state agencies sponsor tables while community businesses, including minority- and women-owned businesses, represent their organizations and network with participants. Departments are encouraged to host a table at the fair and represent the university as part of this community outreach effort.

“This is a fun event that helps expose departments to new and different vendors in this state,” Susman said. “It provides a wonderful opportunity for vendors to show the departments their work. Many of those departments who were reluctant to participate initially because they didn’t think they needed to find new vendors are now are eager to return and look forward to the fair because they have been surprised by the wonderful connections they have made.”

Through these types of outreach efforts, the university has made strides in contracting with emerging and minority- and women-owned small businesses in recent years. For the fiscal year 2012-13, the UO saw a 385 percent increase in purchasing from certified small and diverse companies. That type of increase has not gone unnoticed by the state, and recently the purchasing staff was invited to testify in front of an Oregon Senate task force on procuring through small and local business on its success.

For more information on purchasing and contracting services or the UO reverse vendor fair, visit pcs.uoregon.edu. For more information on the university’s small and minority business outreach efforts, read the "Equity Contracting and Purchasing Policy and Data Reporting Procedures." To search the PCS’s vendor portal, visit https://apps.ideal-logic.com/uopcs.

-By Melissa Foley, Public Affairs Communications