More than 100 local business owners and managers turned out for a breakfast meeting at the Hilton Orrington in Evanston this morning at which Northwestern University officials offered advice on how to do business with the school.
Purchasing Director Jim Konrad conceded that much of the university's buying is done in a very decentralized fashion by hundreds of individual departments, but he said his unit has established a vendor registration system and preferred vendor relationships that are designed to make it easier for firms to get business from the university.
Konrad said NU makes around $400 million a year in total purchases. Lucile Krasnow, NU's special assistant for community relations, said about $15 million of that now is sourced from firms in Evanston and the rest of the North Shore.
Jessica Jacobs, marketing manager for university services, encouraged local retailers to sign up for the school's WildCard program as a way to attract new business. About 300 businesses participate so far, she said, to promote special discount offers for students and staff members at the school.
Lonnie Dunlap, director of career services, explained how businesses can go about recruiting students as interns and part-time workers and seek out grads and alums for full-time jobs.
Lonnie Dunlap, with a chart showing the varied career interests of NU students.
Jeff Coney, director of economic development innovation and new ventures, said the business, engineering, law and journalism schools all have programs in which students, under faculty supervision, can take on projects for local businesses.
He said the engineering school's design institute has conducted research and built prototypes for businesses. The law school offers assistance to small businesses in drafting legal agreements.
And he said Rotary International recently adopted a new world-wide mission statement developed by a marketing class in the journalism school — after rejected earlier efforts from several professional firms.
In addition, the university's athletic department pitched businesses on becoming sponsors of sports programs as a way to generate more sales.