The Senate Democratic Task Force recently hosted a roundtable discussion on developing a "Fast Track" State certification model for Minority- and Women-owned Business Enterprises (MWBEs).
The meeting, which was chaired by State Senators Antoine Thompson (D-Buffalo/Niagara Falls) and Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers), brought together lawmakers and MWBE experts from various state agencies and authorities to discuss and examine the issues surrounding local, state and federal certification of MWBEs in order to develop a unified and expedited certification process.
The development and implementation of a "Fast Track" certification model would eliminate the need for MWBEs to navigate multiple certification processes often encountered when contracting with state, federal and local governments.
Senators Thompson and Stewart-Cousins were joined at the roundtable by more than a dozen distinguished participants, including Michael Jones-Bey, Executive Director of the Division of Minority and Women’s Business Development.
"It is important for women and minorities to get a fair chance to do business with the State of New York," Senator Thompson said. "It can't be done if there are impediments to that goal. We wanted to explore why MWBEs are not being certified in an expedited fashion, and why there is a reluctance on the part of some MWBEs to seek certification.
"This is low-hanging fruit," Senator Thompson continued. "The Senate Democratic Task Force's goal is to have a 'Fast Track' certification process in place by October 1."
Added Senator Stewart-Cousins: "The long-term goal is to increase by 50% the number of certified MWBEs available for public contracting in New York State by the year 2020. To reach that goal, we have to take a first step, and that’s what this meeting was about. We all want to find ways to streamline the process so that we can increase the pool of certified minority and women-owned businesses and subsequently increase the utilization of such businesses in public contracting."
According to census figures, New York ranks first in the number of black-owned firms (129,324), second in women-owned firms (505,134), and fourth in Hispanic-owned firms (163,639). In fact, minority and women-owned firms make up nearly a quarter of New York's small businesses and generated over $100 billion in revenue in 2006.
However, minority and women business owners continue to be left out of the lion's share of state contracts, finding barriers when attempting to tap into government procurement purchasing programs. Last year, for example, the state spent over $11 billion in discretionary expenditures, yet MWBEs only received 3% of state contracts.
"The Governor and Lt. Governor have made improving the MWBE program a priority in expanding economic opportunity for all regions of New York," Jones-Bey said. "I want to commend Senator Malcolm Smith for his leadership on this issue, and I am appreciative of the commitment exemplified by Senate Democratic Task Force Co-Chairs Thompson and Stewart-Cousins. This was a positive meeting that laid the groundwork for improving the State's certification process."