October 24, 2010
Crain’s New York Business
Help Minorities, Women to Help NY
By H. Carl McCall
Every year, New York's state government awards millions of dollars in contracts to the private sector. For far too long, minority- and women-owned businesses were given short shrift in this process. That’s why Gov. Mario Cuomo created the Division of Minority and Women’s Business Development 22 years ago. This office was designed to ensure that minority and female entrepreneurs had access to capital and were able to fairly compete for state contracts.
Unfortunately, the state failed to uphold the mandate of this office, and far too many minority- and women-owned businesses have been left behind―a problem that’s only been exacerbated by the worst economic and unemployment crisis in recent memory. It’s imperative that Albany provide opportunities to businesses and entrepreneurs in every community across the state when it comes time to award contracts.
Minority- and women-owned businesses play a vital role in our state's economy. These firms are often the pillars of their communities, providing jobs and much-needed goods and services to neighborhoods and populations that are chronically underserved.
Such businesses are more likely than other firms to create both low- and high-skilled jobs in disadvantaged communities, supplying positions for those most in need and bringing crucial private investment to neighborhoods that often lack basic financial services and other important economic infrastructure. It’s critical that these businesses that empower struggling local economies have equal access to the competitive bid process for state contracts.
In 2008, Gov. David Paterson created the Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise Task Force to remedy 20 years of insufficient action and lack of enforcement. New York is one of the most diverse states in the country, and it has the second-highest number of women-owned businesses and the third-highest number of minority-owned businesses in the nation. Yet the state ranks ninth in spending with MWBEs. This puts us behind other states including Connecticut, Ohio and Minnesota.
Not only does this hurt the minority and women entrepreneurs whose success we need to encourage; it also puts the brakes on New York’s economic engine by failing to tap the potential of an emerging sector of productive businesses.
Significant progress has been made this year in strengthening the state’s relationship with its minority and female entrepreneurs and making sure that the laws are enforced.
The MWBE Task Force issued its final assessments and recommendations in March, which included the creation of a chief diversity officer to ensure that the guidelines of the MWBE program are applied.
The New York State Department of Economic Development issued the results of its four-year disparity study in April, which found that MWBEs were significantly less likely to be considered for state contracts and more likely to be denied access to credit. In response, the state Legislature passed historic measures to hold the government accountable for increasing opportunities.
These are steps in the right direction. The next several years will require strategic public investments in education, transportation and infrastructure so that we can rebuild New York and bring our economy back from the brink. It’s essential that this recovery effort include all of New York’s entrepreneurs and bring jobs to all of our state’s communities.
From Binghamton to the Bronx, minority- and women-owned businesses are creating jobs and providing services in communities that truly need the investment. Let’s make sure that Albany provides every opportunity possible for these minority and women entrepreneurs and for their employees and customers. Together, we can rebuild New York.