In an unprecedented, proactive effort to help “level the playing field,” New York City Comptroller John C. Liu held the first-ever Comptroller’s Office Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprise (M/WBE) Conference on December 6, 2010. The event brought small minority and women-owned businesses together with the leadership of the Comptroller’s Office to learn about the process of procurement, types of services traditionally sought by the Comptroller’s Office, and the importance of being certified as an M/WBE by the City.
“While this is the first, it surely will not be the last. Today’s conference and the issue of leveling the playing field is, after all, economic empowerment – not just for the businesses, but for the communities of this great city,” Comptroller Liu said. “As minority- and women-owned business enterprises everybody is working very hard to succeed, to build their own businesses. But the statistics are not always favorable, which is why we’re taking this extra effort and we hope other city agencies will follow our lead that we are doing today doing this program.”
More than 100 business owners – some seeking to do business with the City for the first time and other with decades of experience in the public sector – took part in the event. Thurman White of Progressive Investment Management Company and Samuel Ramirez of Ramirez & Co., spoke about their extensive experiences as minority owned businesses working with the Comptroller’s Office. In addition, both explained to the crowd how important it is to get registered as a certified M/WBE and offered advice on how to grow as small companies.
“Be competitive and deliver value,” White told the attendees. “There are no entitlements. We know we’ve got to win this business.”
The Keynote speaker was Ginger Lew, who currently serves as an advisor to President Obama in her role as Senior Counselor to the White House Economic Council. Ms. Lew outlined what the federal government has done to assist small business during this recession and listed a number of programs available at the Federal level. Ms. Lew commended the Comptroller for talking the initiative to host such an important event.
“Perhaps we can take a page from Comptroller Liu’s playbook,” she said.
After the morning remarks, Comptroller Liu individually greeted everyone in attendance and stressed the need for the City to use its purchasing power to help small businesses, especially during this economic downturn. The attendees then took part in “break-out” sessions with the Comptroller’s senior leadership team where they learned more about the office and the City’s M/WBE program.