Women and minorities are a significant and growing proportion of
business owners and entrepreneurs, yet in New York they are awarded a
paltry 2% of City business. This persistent pattern is indicative not
of the skills and talent of minority and women-owned business
enterprises (MWBEs), but rather of a systemic bias in City contracting
that favors the same-old.
NYC Comptroller John Liu has worked to level the playing field for
MWBEs in his first year in office. Most recently, he has launched an
online report card to show how government agencies are spending with
MWBEs. The numbers are highly disappointing but all too expected.
John is optimistic, though, that once agencies see where they really
stand, they will work to improve their numbers – not with quotas or
set-asides – with changes to procurement practices that have long
given non-MWBEs inherent advantages.
John has called for reductions in overall contracting as government
tightens its belt. However, when the City does justifiably contract
out for needed goods and services, everyone should be able to compete
evenly and fairly. By leveling the playing field, New York lives up to
its promise of equal opportunity and in the long run ensures that
taxpayers get the best price.
Attached below are some news reports of interest.
WNYC RADIO: “Liu’s Year In Review” – 12/16/2010
EXCERPT – Today, however, his office is launching their MWBE (Minority
and Woman-owned Business Enterprises) Report Card, an online tool
which tracks what the city spends with firms that are minority or
woman-owned. Liu is not optimistic. “I’ll say from the outset, it’ll
be disappointing, no question about it.” Liu says it is “not about
pointing fingers or placing blame, it’s about setting a benchmark,
from which to improve.”
“This year alone, sixteen billion dollars worth of contracts that the
city has taken out in the private sector, and yet a paltry amount of
that, just over three hundred million dollars directed towards
business owned by women and minorities. That’s a shocking disparity.
It’s unacceptable. And we can no longer ignore the inextricable link
between disparities in contracting with women and minorities and the
disparity in unemployment across different communities..”
GOTHAMIST: “Companies Run By White Men Dominate City Contracts” – 12/17/2010
EXCERPT – Just as the city is dealing with a scandal involving four
white contractors stealing money from city coffers, Comptroller John
Liu has launched a website with some sobering figures about the city’s
contracts to companies run by women and minorities. Namely how few of
them there are.
According to Liu’s website only 2.3% of city contracts are going to
women or minority owned businesses. How much is that in dollars?
That’s $398 million on the one side and $16.6 billion on the other. To
drill down a bit, that is $125 million in contracts to
women-run-firms, $184 million to Asian-American firms and $89 million
to black or hispanic-run firms. It’s actually a pretty slick, if
depressing, site and offers lots of ways to look at the data,
including by city agency and ethnic groups.
Bloomberg’s folks aren’t taking the accusations lying down though,
saying Liu’s people are comparing “apples and oranges and elephants”
by conflating contracts that went to government agencies, union
welfare funds and ones that were required by law to go the lowest
bidder. Which sounds exactly like what we would expect them to say.
BLACK ENTERPRISE MAGAZINE: “The Giant Slayers” – 10/21/2010
EXCERPT – Historically, it’s rare for an African American firm to be
named book-runner on a major municipal bond underwriting deal. A
familiarity with big-name global behemoths by municipal decision
makers, an exclusionary selection process, and a degree of
institutional biases against smaller firms combine to relegate even be
100s firms to supporting roles. So when New York City Comptroller John
C. Liu invited all firms to structure a bond issuance, [they] jumped
at the opportunity.
Typically the city would cycle through large global investment banks,
but Liu decided to open the process to include smaller minority-owned
firms. “In this particular bond sale was a potential opportunity,
which my office seized upon, to go off of this regular rotation,” Liu
stated. “And instead of having the next company in line lead the
sale—and leading the sale means the biggest profits—we invited all the
companies out there to make their best proposal to sell our bonds.” .
. . The comptroller’s message was clear: Firms that had not been in
the city’s traditional pool of senior managers would now be on equal
footing with the Wall Street elite.
OUR TIME PRESS: “Liu Seeking to “Level Playing Field” for Small
Business Owners Doing Business With the City” – 12/9/2010
EXCERPT – 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. Comptroller Liu hosted the
event, which aimed to bring together small minority and women-owned
businesses with the leadership of the Comptroller’s Office to help
“level the playing field” for those doing business with the city. More
than 100 business owners were in attendance at the event which
featured remarks by Thurman White of Progressive Investment Management
Company and Samuel Ramirez of Ramirez & Co., both of whom spoke about
their experiences as minority owned businesses working with the
NY1: “New Database Shows City’s Investment In Minority-Owned
Businesses” – 12/16/2010
EXCERPT – An online report card now sheds light on how the city spends
its budget with minority and women-owned businesses. In 2005, the City
Council passed a measure — known as Local Law 129 — to enhance the
ability of minority businesses to compete for city contracts.
City Comptroller John Liu and other city leaders say five years later,
the city has failed to keep its promise.
“Every New Yorker has an obligation to say ‘An even playing field is
all that we’re asking for.’ When we develop and expand the supply, in
the end, tax payers will get a better bargain,” said City Councilman
So far this year, only about two percent of the $17 billion the city
has spent on contracts, has gone to a minority or women-owned
business. The report card will be updated daily.
HITN: “Initiative Regarding City Agencies and Minority and Women Owned
Businesses” – 12/16/2010
EXCERPT – New York City Comptroller John Liu announced an initiative
regarding City agencies and Minority and Women owned Businesses to
help MWBE’s obtain city contracts through a specific website created
by the comptroller’s office.
“Unfortunately, it has been a very shockingly low amount that has gone
to MWBEs, far lower than what it would be considered fair. That has an
impact — not only on the businesses, the small businesses, most of
which are MWBEs — but it also has an effect on job creation and
employment opportunities for people in different communities.”
“Other cities may emulate our system, and we are always happy to share
with other systems what we have developed here. But there are other
cities who have a much better track record of contracting with MWBEs,
and in that respect, I hope New York City can catch-up to those other
For Comptroller Liu, making this data available goes beyond
transparency. He hopes it will help to boost the current contracts
given to MWBEs, not only to benefit the business owners, but for
economic empowerment as a whole.
“What my interest and my priorities are, in not only an economic
recovery for New York City, but a recovery that gives everybody equal
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: “Comptroller Liu says city overlooking woman,
minorities in awarding contracts” – 12/17/2010
EXCERPT – Companies owned by women or minorities are getting just a
tiny fraction of city contracts, according to city Controller John
“The city is not doing enough to level the playing field,” Liu said
Thursday as he unveiled a new website that tracks the share of city
work flowing to women and minorities.
According to Liu, just 2.3% of city contracts are going to women or
minorities – $398 million, compared with $16.6 billion for companies
controlled by white men.
EL DIARIO OP-ED: “We Need Equitable Contracts” by 100 Hispanic Women
President and Founder Shirley Rodríguez-Remeneski – 12/20/2010
EXCERPT – Celebramos la ciudad de Nueva York como un lugar en el que
todos somos bienvenidos. Sin embargo, en una ciudad que se enorgullece
de incluir a las minorías, los negocios minoritarios y los que son
propiedad de mujeres todavía cuentan con una representación muy baja.
La ciudad está en posición de contratar de forma equitativa y con las
máximas oportunidades para todos. Por eso, es con gran preocupación
que hemos recibido en 100 Hispanic Women Inc. el informe de John Liu,
Controlador de la Ciudad, acerca de la falta de progreso en el aumento
de la participación del M/WBE (Minority and Women-owned Business
Enterprise) en las oportunidades de adquisición de la ciudad.
100 Hispanic Women espera que la información del controlador Liu’s
M/WBE fomente que las agencias tomen las medidas correctas y aumenten
las oportunidades para que los diversos negocios de la ciudad tengan
acceso al gobierno.
Nadie está pidiendo un tratamiento especial o preferencias injustas.
Existe una clara diferencia entre quien trabaja en Nueva York y quien
se beneficia del acceso a los contratos del gobierno. El construir un
entorno nivelado se trata de aprovechar los recursos y amplios
talentos que ya existen en Nueva York. Cuando la ciudad abre sus
puertas, todos se benefician.