On July 15, 2010, Governor David Paterson made history in New York by signing into law the first comprehensive legislation for the inclusion of Minority and Women Business Enterprises in the bid and business process throughout the state. It is now a law of the land, and will have a broad generative effect across the board for enhancing and empowering Black-and minority-owned businesses. Historically speaking, these businesses have been marginalized, or not included at all in many of the major multimillion-dollar contracts leD by City and State government.
Major vendors have come into the area and have been able to establish businesses without including local businesses, contractorS or services. With the signing of the bill, the dynamic has changed. The implications for Brooklyn’s minority business enterprises is tremendous.
State Senator Kevin Parker, of Brooklyn’s 21st Senatorial District, which encompasses Flatbush, Ditmas Park, Midwood and other areas, took time to spell out the details and the impact these four new bills will have on Black-and minority-owned businesses in Brooklyn and throughout the state.
What follows is a brief interview with the senator, immediately after Governor David Paterson’s historic signing of the bill into law:
GDW: What’s the significance of this bill? And what does this mean for us in Brooklyn?
KP: Well, it’s actually a package of four bills, three of which deal with something called 15A, which deals with procurement for the state of New York. And the fourth bill actually deals with the Emerging Managers bill which now, for the first time, allows Blacks, Latino, women and Asians who are engaged in financial services, to now have a program that requires the state to give them their due.
To further put that in perspective, Senator Parker compared New York’s budget with the rest of the world: “Right now, the state of New York is the third- largest budget in the entire country. First is the Federal Government’s budget, [second] the state of California, then the state of New York. Out of that $136 billion that we’re going to spend this year in the state of New York, between $25 and $30 billion is procured out for everything from paper clips to large construction projects. And so, historically, African-Americans, Latinos, women and Asians have had very, very, very small percentages — actually less than two percent totally — of that money. This is now going to expand the process — the process has existed for a while — but this will expand the process by which MWBE’s get access to those state contracts.”
GDW: Brooklyn is the entrepreneurial capital of New York. More people actually have their own small businesses. Specifically, what kinds of things are you going to do in Brooklyn to ensure those people are involved?
KP: Well this is the first time that we’re connecting Wall Street to Main Street. Literally, Wall Street to the Main Streets of my community. The Church Avenues, the Flatbush Avenues, the Nostrand Avenues. And so, one, there are going to be a lot of programs vis à vis every agency. So from the Department of Transportation to the Empire State Development Corporation will be having programs. A lot of elected officials, including myself, are doing press conferences, press releases and notices, and mailers to our community to let them know what’s going on.
GDW: Is there anything that the other side of the community needs to do. In other words, those people who are just getting into the fray and have never been certified as an MWBE can do?
KP: Well, I think that what the people should be doing is reaching out to the agency, particularly to the Empire State Development Corporation.
Senator Parker is known for encouraging local small business growth with the creation of Building Blocks Local Development Corporation. He has also hosted three business development forums throughout the district, so his sense of commitment to business development is already established.
That said, he offered several recommendations to MWBE’s who stand to benefit from this new legislation:
KP: There are really a number of things that people need to do. I have five quick tips:
One, people need to get their paperwork straight. Your personal financials; if you have a business already, get your business finances together and make sure you have a good business plan.
Two, research the opportunities that are available with the state. Whether you’re selling furniture, there’s the Department of Education, you may want to look at the Health Department; if you do construction, you may want to talk with the Thruway Authority and the Dept. of Transportation; you can research and see who is your best opportunity to do business with.
The Third thing you want to make sure that you do is to get certified. There’s a certification process with the state.
GDW: Having worked as a minority business liaison in the past, I have to ask you has that process been streamlined? It used to take forever.
KP: It has been. It’s now a two-day process — it used to be a very long process, we’ve streamlined it. I think it’s a one-page form now. But it’s much easier. And then last, make sure you reach out to your elected officials. So, whether it’s myself or your assembly or city council person, they will have information on how minority—and women—owned businesses are working; and how you get your best access back to those opportunities.
KP: The important point is that we provide transparency to the process, accountability to the process; and more importantly, enforcement to make sure that people who were not in compliance with it are taken to task. The signing of this bill by the governor today is an acknowledgment that labor market discrimination exists in the state of New York. And that we, in fact, need to address it. The way to address it is to make sure that Black and Latino, Asian and Women—Owned Businesses have more capacity to do hiring by giving them more business opportunities. More business opportunities equates to more employment opportunities in all of our communities.
If you are interested in additional information on the Minority and Women Business Enterprises, contact the Empire State Development Corporation at www.empire.state.ny.us, or Senator Kevin Parker’s office at (718) 629-6401.
For a more in depth report on the MWBE and its impact, log on to my Blog: http://www.gloriadulanwilson.blogspot.com