By Margo McKenzie
Mayor de Blasio wants the city to clink glasses and offer a toast to his administration; it helped over 100 Women and Minority Business Enterprises(W/MBE) win $93 million dollars in contracts. The mayor is now steps closer to achieving his ten-year plan of 16 billion dollars in contracts with W/MBEs.
His predecessor initiated the program in 2005, and Mayor de Blasio augmented it. So, is a celebration in order? Let’s take a look at the details found on a NYC Web site.
The data below, from the Checkbook NYC Web site, shows NYC contract distribution among M/WBEs:
|Minority or Women Business Enterprises||Total Amount of City Contracts||Percentage of total contracts|
|Black American||$51.02 million||0.3%|
|Hispanic||$111.42 million||.6 %|
|Total M/WBEs||$1.10 billion||6.2%|
|Total Non- M/WBE contracts||$16.60 billion||93.8%|
Women and minority business owners secured slightly over 1 billion dollars in city contracts, providing a variety of services for a wide array of departments run by the city. These businesses run the gamut: electric, construction, computer networking, painting, building maintenance, graphics, cleaning and more. If a company wants to sell its business services to the city, the door is wide open.
By 2021, the mayor’s goal is that M/WBEs comprise 30% of the distribution pie, and to increase these partnerships his administration has established a variety of training programs to help companies bid and win contracts. Of the broad categories of the M/WBEs listed in the chart above, Asian-Americans were recipients of contracts with the highest value followed by Hispanics; Black Americans won the least amount.
Joslin Johnson, founder and CEO of Where to Get It Services, LLC, located in Brooklyn, credits the New York City M/WBE program for her current contract with the city’s Build It Back Program to restore homes destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. During a phone conversation, she explained that years of preparation equipped her for the challenges she encounters maintaining her own business and qualifying for a city contract. She wasn’t surprised to learn that so few Black Americans benefited from the program. “You need a godfather, somebody with deep pockets to help you over the hurdles.” She was able to get a line of credit when her money ran short.
Johnson added that her previous experience as project manager and her two master’s degrees in administration and project management, respectively, provided a strong foundation. Ultimately, she admitted “entrepreneurship is in my DNA.” Her mother, now deceased, ran a variety shop. “I learned to be a risk-taker; a $300,000 contract should be completed within schedule and within budget, but there’s so much training and opportunity out there,” [to help that happen], she said. Her participation in the NYC Construction Mentorship and Bonding programs offered by NYC Small Business Services, an MBA-type training and education experience has provided some of the structure needed to get over the difficult hurdles.
Archie Cauley, co-owner of Cauley Coach, Inc. in Queens, was equally baffled by the low representation of Black businesses participating in the citywide program. He and his wife Patricia have owned their charter bus service business for over thirty-two years. He has scaled down his regular charter bus service to focus more on using his buses to shuttle construction workers from their parking site to their work site. In the past that work site was JFK. In two months, he is hoping to provide bus service for 400 workers at Laguardia Airport.
The Port Authority conducted an information session to inform businesses about the $10 billion-dollar project at La Guardia Airport. “The session was well-attended. I had a front-row seat. At the end of the session, I took a quick scan of the audience. Maybe twenty-five of us were there out of approximately 200 people.”
Cauley emphasized businesses need “ready access” to assistance. He used the term “liaison” and “contact person,” and “intermediary” during his phone conversation. These connections provide needed support for his small businesses. His company is listed among a digital, yellow page-type list of M/WBE firms ready to do business with the city. Listing does not guarantee a contract. Thousands of other businesses are also listed.
The Port Authority, with whom Cauley also has M/WBE status, helped to establish the Regional Alliance for Small Contractors(RASC), which Cauley has an easier time navigating. “I can call them from time to time and ask if there are any agencies that could use my services. They keep businesses abreast of opportunities.”
In an attempt to make up for the traditional lack of opportunity for businesses owned by minorities and women to sell their services, NYC and RASC, respectively, have developed extensive programs to train and support the development of businesses and training for procurement of contracts.
For anyone with a business or an idea for a business, NYC and the Port Authority can potentially serve as counselor and customer. Go to www.nyc.govsbs and www.regional-alliance.org to find out how so more can participate in de Blasio’s celebration.
Margo McKenzie writes about issues which shine light and hope (Article updated August 14, 2017