Assemblymember Crystal D. Peoples Stokes (D-Buffalo) announced the Assembly passed legislation to promote minority- and women-owned business enterprises (MWBEs) to help provide them with fair and equal opportunities.
“Minority- and women-owned businesses are part of the lifeblood of small communities as well as urban centers, and they are playing a significant role in helping our economy get back on track,” Assemblymember Crystal D. Peoples Stokes said. “It’s important to have diverse business owners who bring different perspectives and experiences to the marketplace. This bill will help more MWBEs succeed, in turn creating more jobs and boosting the Buffalo economy.”
Four bills were passed this week, including measures to:
- raise the limit for making purchases from small businesses and MWBEs without a formal competitive process from $100,000 to $200,000 (A.11525);
- enhance the commitment of public authorities to include minority and women-owned businesses in their procurement processes and direct them to consider issues of diversity when making appointments to their boards (A.11526);
- expand opportunities for MWBEs to participate in state procurements and establish policies to increase competition and diversity in state procurements (A.11527); and
- create MWBE regional advocates (A.5458).
Assemblymember Crystal D. Peoples Stokes said A.11525 would provide state agencies with the flexibility they need to meet MWBE goals, and would ensure more opportunities for state contracting with small businesses. Assemblymember Crystal D. Peoples Stokes said A.11526 expands opportunities for MWBEs in many ways, including:
- having the boards of state public authorities consider the diversity of prospective nominees to those boards;
- allowing the purchase of goods or services from small businesses and certified MWBEs in amounts of $200,000 or less without competitive bidding; and
- strengthening the procurement guidelines for state public authorities.
In addition, the bill would require an annual report on contracts with MWBEs, including their value and penalties assessed under the law.
In 2006, the Empire State Development Corporation commissioned a disparity study to evaluate whether MWBEs had a full and fair opportunity to participate in state contracting. The report found evidence of statistically significant disparities between participation of MWBEs in the state market and the availability of such businessesi. It concluded that these disparities could not be explained by “factors untainted by discrimination.”
Assemblymember Crystal D. Peoples Stokes said although we currently have laws that address procurement from MWBEs, they have not been sufficient because of the lack of adequate oversight, reporting and accountability by state entities.
“This legislation seeks to provide a framework so that state agencies and public authorities are held accountable for their commitment to MWBE participation and diversity in the area of procurement,” Assemblymember Crystal D. Peoples Stokes said.
Assemblymember Crystal D. Peoples Stokes said MWBEs have cited difficulty in obtaining technical, managerial, financial and educational support, prompting the Assembly to pass a bill creating MWBE regional advocates to assist in that process (A.5458).
“For years, too many minority- and women-owned businesses have expressed difficulty in obtaining support,” Assemblymember Crystal D. Peoples Stokes said. “Allowing advocates to act as a liaison for MWBEs will provide a voice and aid in resolving certification delays, investigating complaints, and assisting in the certification process.”
Advocates will also play an important role in developing educational outreach programs and promoting awareness of competitive grant programs, Assemblymember Crystal D. Peoples Stokes said.
“It’s essential for MWBEs to be competitive, and that starts with their ability to get assistance from the state,” Assemblymember Crystal D. Peoples Stokes said. “This legislation achieves that goal.”
Assemblymember Crystal D. Peoples Stokes added that the 2010-2011 state budget provides $3.4 million for the Minority and Women-owned Business Development Program, including:
- $25 million for the Small Business Revolving Loan Fund targeting MWBEs;
- $1.4 million for the Community Development Financial Institutions program;
- $1.2 million for Entrepreneurial Assistance Centers; and
- $635,000 for the Minority and Women-owned Business Development and Lending program.
“I’ve always been a strong supporter of minority- and women-owned businesses, and will continue looking for new and better ways to create greater opportunities for these valuable entrepreneurs,” Assemblymember Crystal D. Peoples Stokes said. “We must end discrimination and provide more chances for them to be successful.”