July 1, 2010

Assembly Acts to Encourage Minority and Women-Owned Business Participation in State Contracting

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver -- joined by Governmental Operations Chair RoAnn Destito, Oversight of Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (MWBEs) Sub-Committee Chair Crystal Peoples-Stokes, and Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Chair Richard Brodsky -- today announced Assembly passage of measures encouraging the growth of MWBEs in New York State by supporting the participation of these enterprises in state and public authority contracting.

"Minority- and Women- owned and operated businesses are a critical component of economic development and job creation in our state. Inexcusably, too many MWBEs have been overlooked or denied access to contracting opportunities with our state agencies. New York State has an obligation to level the playing field so that all qualified entities can compete for state business. We must encourage fair business practices, ensure an equitable state contract procurement process, and find innovative approaches to encourage the growth of these enterprises," said Silver (D-Manhattan).

"While we have seen significant improvements in the last few years in how New York's MWBE program is run, we still have much to do. These new, stronger initiatives will not only ensure justice and fairness in state contracting, but they will broaden the contractor pool for all of State government. This will spur competition that will lead to cost efficiencies statewide," said Destito (D-Rome).

Tracking MWBE participation in state contracting
Recognizing that discrimination has created inequities in the state procurement process, the Assembly passed legislation that would create the MWBE regional advocate, who would act as a liaison for these enterprises (A.5458/Titus).

The Assembly also approved legislation creating the Chief Diversity Officer in the Executive Cabinet, who would be responsible for advising and assisting the Governor in formulating policies related to workforce diversity and MWBEs (A.11527/Cook).

Additionally, this legislation (A.11527) would: Enhancing public authority guidelines for procurement
A measure passed earlier this week would expand opportunities for MWBEs by requiring appointing members of public authorities to consider the diversity of prospective contractors (A.11526/Brodsky). The legislation would also increase the amount above which public authorities must seek competitive bids from $100,000 to $200,000 for procurements from small businesses or MWBEs or purchases of recycle goods.

The measure would also, in relation to public authority guidelines for procurement:

MWBE participation in State procurements
Legislation passed by the Assembly yesterday would raise the ceiling under which purchases from MWBEs and small businesses could be made without a competitive bid (A.11525/Destito).

Last month, the Empire State Development Corporation released a study on the participation of MWBEs in state contracts. The State of Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprise: Evidence from New York included evidence that these entities were routinely discriminated against. For example, 24.4 percent of non-minority males were denied a loan, compared to 62.3 percent of African-Americans, in 2008. Furthermore, over half of African-Americans did not apply for a loan in that same year for fear of being denied, compared to only 20 percent of non-minority males.

"New York must be a state that continues to blaze a trail of innovation and diversity in the marketplace. We cannot boast of being the 'Empire State', yet report significant disparities in MWBE participation," said Peoples-Stokes (D-Buffalo). "Reforms passed this week by the Assembly are vital to giving a fair chance to MWBEs in obtaining state contracts. I will continue to work toward enhancing and strengthening the rules governing the procurement process, and utilize my position as the Chair of the Subcommittee on the Oversight of MWBEs to ensure that all New Yorkers have access to the same opportunities."

"It is imperative we right the wrongs of the past, and expand opportunities for minority and women-owned business enterprises in any way we can," said Brodsky (D-Westchester), who sponsored one of the bills. "I have long championed MWBE initiatives, and applaud all of the various co-sponsors in both houses, Governor Paterson, and all the tireless advocates who have led the charge to implement these long needed and critical changes. Between the Public Authorities Reform Act of 2009 and these initiatives, we have exponentially improved the diversity practices of public authorities around the state. These are vital reforms that will have lasting positive impact."

"Minority and women business owners have been discriminated against and underrepresented in the business world for years, and I have fought hard to rectify this injustice," said Assemblywoman Vivian Cook (D-Queens), who sponsored one of the bills. "They deserve equitable representation in state contract procurement, and the legislation passed today will ensure that their voices are heard. It's crucial that we institute measures which will help level the playing field and bring about equal opportunity for these men and women."

"Shamefully, discrimination is still alive and well in the business world," said Assemblyman Darryl Towns (D-Brooklyn). "This is why I have fought tirelessly to enact reforms ensuring that minority and women business owners are able to thrive. I represent a very diverse Assembly District and I know that the establishment of these enterprises is beneficial not only to the entrepreneur, but to the community as well. The development and success of minority- and women-owned businesses are vital to the growth of our state's economy, especially in these difficult fiscal times."

"The measure of the true efficacy of the MWBE program is three-fold -certification, opportunities and access to contracts, and system-wide accountability," said Speaker Pro Tempore Peter Rivera (D-Bronx). "This legislative package accomplishes these aims. It streamlines the MWBE application process to certify more of these enterprises by establishing regional MWBE advocates, and it creates more opportunities for MWBEs. By holding public authorities and state agencies accountable for the dispensing of contracts, these MWBEs will have more economic opportunities and the State of New York will ultimately benefit through the creation of jobs and greater tax revenues."

"The disparity study results further cement the truth that minority and women business owners are not given the opportunities they deserve," said Assemblywoman Michele Titus (D-Queens), who sponsored one of the measures. "These reforms are long overdue, and I applaud my colleagues in the Assembly for passing these bills. In order to bring about real change in the way that business is conducted in New York State, we have to ensure equal access to resources and a competitive procurement process."