SOURCE: Minority & Women Business Enterprise Coalition

Minority & Women Business Enterprise Coalition

March 02, 2010 15:26 ET

Governor Paterson, State Leaders and MWBE Coalition Call for Increased Access to Capital and Opportunity for Minority- and Women-Owned Businesses

Coalition Organizes the Largest-Ever MWBE Awareness Day in Albany Today With Participation of More Than 100 Community Leaders, Business Owners, Professionals and Concerned Citizens; Public Hearing March 3rd Aimed at Strengthening MWBE Legislation

ALBANY, NY--(Marketwire - March 2, 2010) -  Governor Paterson, state senators and assemblymembers joined the Minority & Women Business Enterprise (MWBE) Coalition, a broad, statewide group of community leaders, business owners, trade associations, nonprofits, and concerned citizens, in calling for greater economic opportunity for minority- and women-owned businesses across New York State today. As part of its comprehensive campaign, the MWBE Coalition organized the state's largest-ever MWBE Awareness Day, which brought more than 100 coalition partners and members to the state capitol on Tuesday to push for legislative reform measures.

In addition to MWBE Awareness Day, the New York State Senate Majority MWBE Task Force, The New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus and the Assembly Sub-Committee on Oversight of MWBEs will hold a public hearing on March 3rd to strengthen MWBE legislation.

"New York has a tremendous opportunity at this moment to facilitate economic stimulus, spur innovation and create jobs by supporting minority- and women-owned businesses across the state," said Governor David Paterson (D-New York). "For too long, MWBEs have had limited access to capital and opportunity despite contributing significantly to the state's economic engine. Let's ensure that all New York businesses are well positioned to help drive our economy -- there's never been a more critical time to pass the legislative reforms that will make this possible."

New York State currently falls behind eight other states in spending with MWBEs despite being one of the most ethnically diverse, with the second highest number of women-owned business enterprises (WBEs) and third highest number of minority-owned business enterprises (MBEs). MWBEs have historically had difficulty securing capital and business opportunities, a problem that has become more severe with the weak economy. The legislative reforms supported by the MWBE Coalition would give New York State arguably the most progressive MWBE policy framework in the country.

"Diversity is good for business. It fosters competition and helps develop greater opportunities for women- and minority-owned enterprises that will spur the economy. Through the MTA financing and reform legislation, to the Public Authorities Reform Act, passed by the Senate, we are making the sound investment in minority and women owned businesses necessary to create jobs and get our communities back to work," said State Senate Majority Conference Leader John L. Sampson (D-Brooklyn).

"Thanks to the leadership of Governor Paterson, our New York State Senators and Assembly partners, and so many committed organizations, business owners and concerned voters, we are making real progress toward our common goal of eliminating artificial barriers to competition that affect minority- and women-owned business enterprises," said Seth Bryant, Co-chair, Minority & Women Business Enterprise (MWBE) Coalition. "MWBE Awareness Day is a significant step, but we have a long way to go to ensure that minority- and women-owned businesses have equal access to New York state contract opportunities. This access is critical for New York's larger job creation and economic development goals."

Between September 2008 and September 2009, New York State lost 236,000 jobs, a disproportionate percentage of which hit ethnic minority groups. Studies consistently show that MBEs are more likely than nonminority-owned businesses to locate in minority communities and employ minority workers. One result of increasing access to capital and opportunity for MWBEs, therefore, is stimulus for job creation across the state.

State Senate President Pro Tempore Malcolm A. Smith (D-St. Albans) said, "New York State with its incredibly diverse population is poised to be one of the strongest and most progressive states for minority- and women-owned businesses. I remain committed to promoting greater economic opportunities for businesses owned and operated by women and minorities."

MWBE Awareness Day included more than 100 visits with state senators and assembly members, many of whom have expressed their support for MWBE legislation. In addition, state leaders and MWBE Coalition partners and members held a press conference and reception.

"This kickoff of the statewide MWBE Awareness Day is a tremendous occasion for legislators and stakeholders to come together and explore ways to expand the participation of MWBE access across the state," stated Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D-Buffalo), Chairwoman of the Assembly Sub-Committee on Oversight of MWBE. "The reform of Article 15-A and the passage and implementation of the emerging manager legislation will only increase access to resources and opportunities. Now is the time to move forward and level the playing field while this window of opportunity exists to succeed."

"We must strengthen Article 15-A so that it is an effective law providing clear administrative and enforcement measures for the accountability called for in providing equal opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses in New York State," said State Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson (D-Mount Vernon), Chairwoman of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus. "By expanding the legislation to include all areas of state procurement and contracting, including professional and financial services, this reform will go a long way towards providing true equal opportunity for MWBEs in this, the most diverse state in the country."

The lack of access to capital and opportunity for MWBEs significantly limits the state's economic engine by cutting out a huge portion of productive businesses. Dramatically increasing the state spends with MWBE vendors can result in higher service levels, increased innovation and lower costs. Numerous states, including New Jersey, have directly linked their MWBE expansion initiatives to state contracting cost reductions.

"It is with great excitement and anticipation that we announce the first Annual MWBE Awareness Day in Albany," said State Senator Antoine M. Thompson (D-Buffalo), Co-Chair of the Legislative Task Force on Minority/Women Owned Business Enterprises (MWBE). "The only way this community will achieve its goals and create new economic opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses is by uniting forces. Small businesses and MWBE's will provide the backbone and foundation required to lift our economy out of this recession. This day of advocacy marks the beginning of a movement empowering minority businesses to participate in the legislative process and help shape their own future. I am honored and look forward to participating in this, the first of many MWBE Awareness Days."

Assemblymember Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester), Chairman of the Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, said, "We made major strides in the Public Authority Reform Act by covering all authorities and extending the MWBE requirements to financial and other protective services. There's much more to do but we've taken giants steps in the past six months."

The MWBE Coalition's legislative goals include:

  • To pass the most progressive MWBE legislative reforms in New York State.
  • To provide more funding to the Division of MWBE services to enable stronger compliance, monitoring and technical assistance.
  • To fund an Economic Development Grant to develop MWBE capacity in partnership with NYS Fortune 500 corporations.
  • To put forward new legislation that expands the coverage of MWBEs to financial and professional services.
  • To establish consequences for state contractors in non compliance.

State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D/WF - 35th District), Co-Chair of the Legislative Task Force on Minority/Women Owned Business Enterprises (MWBE), stated, "I am pleased that so many people from every imaginable sector of our State's economy have come together to advocate for increased opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses in New York. Informing members of the Legislature, as a coalition of diverse citizens, of the current disparity MWBEs face with regard to access to capital is crucial to the enactment of true reform and equality."

"This is a day of significance. Women and minorities have joined forces to share their business challenges and to examine legislative solutions that will create a level playing field for all small businesses in New York," said Sandra Wilkin, President of Women Builders Council.

"The Assembly is pleased and proud to welcome the MWBE Coalition to Albany this Tuesday. As the Chair of the Assembly Standing Committee on Governmental Operations, the advancement of economic opportunity for all through our State's MWBE program is one of my highest priorities," Assemblymember RoAnn M. Destito (D/WF-Rome) said. "I applaud the Coalition's efforts and look forward to working with them during this legislative session. Together, we can make New York a true MWBE leader for the whole nation."

Added James Francis, Board Member and Chair of the Access to Capital and Opportunity Committee, Council of Urban Professionals (CUP), "Now is the time to ensure equal access to capital and opportunity for MWBEs in New York State. The unbelievable turnout of community and business leaders, entrepreneurs and concerned voters for MWBE Awareness Day demonstrates that we're collectively moving the needle in the direction of reform."

A large part of the MWBE Coalition's legislative effort is intended to strengthen Article 15-A of the State's Executive Law, which determines how state agencies award contracts, business, and employment opportunities to minority- and women-owned businesses. The Coalition advocates for improving Article 15-A by: enlarging the number of state agencies covered; including the use of MWBEs in financial and professional services in state contracts; specifying the diversity practices used to judge vendors; clarifying state agency reporting requirements; and establishing a "public authorities procurement council" composed of senior leaders from state agencies and representatives of the private sector. (New York State Senate bill S1799)

"This will be a year where we can take Article 15-A and move it into permanency as well as making improvements that yield the results we expect," said Assemblymember Darryl C. Towns (D-Brooklyn).

"March 2, 2010, MWBE Awareness Day, may be seen as an awakening by some -- or the reality of the times by others," said James Heyliger, President of the Association of Minority Enterprises of New York, Inc. (AMENY). "For AMENY, our support of this momentous endeavor is simply 'our times.' This day, the MWBE inauguration, has our total commitment, for its goals are crystal clear and this assembly of MWBE supporters is long overdue."

"Full inclusion of women- and minority-owned businesses is an idea whose time has come. We cannot wait for political expediency. We demand inclusion now," said Rev. Jacques A. DeGraff, a member of the executive committee of the Minority Business Leadership Committee (MBLC).

The MWBE Coalition also supports the establishment of new legislation that requires state pension plans to make a good faith effort to use Emerging Investment Managers and other MWBE financial institutions. (New York State Senate bill S6888)

"The State of New York has made great strides in terms of opening up business opportunities for MBWEs which in turn led to the hiring of many of the people that were displaced during one of the worst economic periods since the Great Depression," said Donna Sims Wilson, President of M.R. Beal & Company, one of the oldest minority-owned investment banks in the United States and Chair of the Legislative Committee of the National Association of Securities Professionals. "The incredible success supports the need for increasing the number of opportunities available to MBWEs so today's effort is extremely important."

"NAMWOLF supports the efforts of Governor Paterson and the New York State Senate and Assembly to ensure that minority- and women-owned law firms are able to compete on a level playing field in a bid to provide professional services to state agencies," said Yolanda Coly, Managing Director, National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms (NAMWOLF). "We continue to work with Fortune 500 companies and public entities, both New York State and nationwide, to ensure diverse and balanced outside counsel legal representation. Changing the language is only a first step in making sure MWBE law firms know that they are going to be counted as opposed to what has been historically taking place. We are pleased to see the state take such strong, positive actions towards inclusion."

"We've made a good start in trying to level the playing field for MWBEs," said Lennox Britton, Executive Director of the New York State Association of Minority Contractors (NYSAMC). "However, stronger legislation needs to be put in place, especially in the area of active enforcement and oversight so that there can be measureable results."

Organizations and individuals are invited to join the MWBE Coalition. For more information about getting involved, please visit www.MWBEUnited.org.

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