A new ordinance recently passed in Cook County gives preferential bidding rights to companies that County believes will service the public benefit. According to the ordinance, if an eligible social enterprise bids no more than 5% higher than the lowest competing bid, the social enterprise will win the bid. An example of a “social enterprise” is a non-profit or private-sector business that uses its earned revenue, or a significant portion thereof, to address a social issue. This includes things such as providing products and services to the disadvantaged and/or providing them with employment. In order to qualify a “ eligible,” a business must be incorporated as an Illinois benefit corporation. A “benefit corporation” is a business which, by law, seeks to create a general public benefit. Alternatively, an Illinois low-profit limited liability company (one that pursues charitable or educational purposes) will also receive preferential bidding rights under the new ordinance.
The ordinance is the brainchild of the Cook County Commission on Social Innovation. The commission was established to foster job creation, workforce development, entrepreneurship, community revitalization and industrial development. The ordinance is expected to apply to Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties.