For more than a year, the University of Virginia’s Local Economy Working Group has worked to identify ways for UVA to do more work with local businesses and to identify and overcome barriers to pursuing that goal.
In June, the group, which is affiliated with the President’s Council on UVA-Community Partnerships, presented its recommendations. And in October, President Jim Ryan and his administration responded to those recommendations, detailing a timeline for the University’s procurement staff to achieve them.
The University leaders – including Ryan, Chief Operating Officer Jennifer “J.J.” Wagner Davis, Vice President for Finance Melody Bianchetto and Associate Vice President for Financial Operations Augie Maurelli – also outlined a three-phase plan that will be followed to implement the working group’s recommendations:
Phase I: Supply Analysis
The first phase will focus on using data analysis to better understand the goods and services that existing retailers provide UVA. It will evaluate the University’s existing partnerships with more than 100 local businesses and identify opportunities for further spending with them. Phase I will also commit to finding ways to engage with about 300 local businesses in 52 regional ZIP codes with which UVA does not currently have a business relationship.
Phase II: Opportunity Analysis
With the results discovered in Phase I, the second phase will seek methods to facilitate and shorten the process for vendors to be certified to do business with UVA. This phase is also where opportunities to prioritize and increase spending with local and historically disadvantaged businesses will be identified.
Phase III: Strategy Development, Implementation and Monitoring, and Evaluation
The final phase will develop a plan of action using the data collected in Phases I and II to double the percentage of local and minority-owned businesses partnering with the University by fiscal year 2025 and to raise UVA’s spending with local businesses by 10% within that same timeframe. The third phase will also prioritize increasing spending with certified small, women-owned and minority-owned – or “SWaM” – businesses, and making it easier for UVA schools and units to find them when their services are needed.
Planning, analysis and implementation of the working group’s recommendations is already underway and is expected to continue through fiscal year 2025.
“I’m grateful to the Local Economy Working Group for their efforts to help us strengthen UVA’s relationships with local businesses,” Ryan said. “They delivered thoughtful and well-researched recommendations, and I look forward to working with colleagues to implement them. Ensuring that we support local businesses is critical to building a strong partnership that helps the community thrive.”
Stephen Davis, who serves as president of the Community Investment Collaborative and is a co-chair of the Local Economy Working Group, said he is hopeful for a brighter future for small, local businesses following the working group’s report.
“I’m grateful to the members of our Local Economy Working Group for the time and energy dedicated to making these recommendations and to President Ryan and his team for understanding how UVA’s influence on the local economy goes beyond the products and services purchased,” he said. “It includes working to ensure that all members of our community, especially those that have historically been excluded, are uplifted and encouraged to partner with the University. I hope the team’s response and thoughtful plan of action are the first step toward broad-based investment by the University in this work.”
Convened by Ryan in 2020, the Local Economy Working Group is charged with identifying ways to build more relationships with and boost University use of local businesses, particularly those that are new and those that are SWaM-certified. The goal for the working group is to increase procurement relationships with local businesses and ensure equitable access to UVA vendor opportunities, while also learning, understanding and addressing barriers that businesses face now.
“Increasing engagement and ‘spend’ with small and diverse suppliers in the local community, particularly with minority-owned businesses, is of utmost importance,” Ryan, J.J. Davis, Bianchetto and Maurelli wrote in their response to the working group’s recommendations. “This work will make a difference in enabling the University to engage small and diverse suppliers more fully in the local community and maximize economic impact.”