State’s procurement policies still slack for minority, women-owned businesses

Last July, Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed Executive Order 20, requiring that state agencies award 42 percent of the contracts to supply goods and services to Small, Women and Minority-owned (SWAMs) firms.

The Governor said this would be the highest percentage of state contracts to go to certified SWAMs since 2004. Currently SWAMs receive only about 5 percent of the $5 billion the state spends on good and services to operate.

Executive Order 20 also expanded set-asides portions of contracts open only to bids from small businesses.

To measure the response to Executive Order 20 from SWAMs and other businesses affected by it, the Virginia Department of Commerce and Trade and Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity (DSBSD) staged a series of regional listening sessions or roundtables.

Six were scheduled; the fifth was held October 10 in Newport News to hear concerns from SWAM owners about procurement policies and resources which would enable them to compete for contracts.

According to Syd Dorsey, Advisor for Small Business Equity and Development with the Department of Commerce and Trade, she and other officials fielded and asked questions about a variety of uses from SWAM owners.

Many questions were about the Electronic Procurement Portal or eVa, which is a website SWAMs may use to be alerted of projects to bid on via the Internet.

She said there were questions during the roundtables or “listening events” on business assistance, grants and other financial resources available to sustain their operations.

During the SWAM roundtable event on October 10, a question was asked about the existing barriers Women, Black and Minority owned enterprises (WMBEs) have been facing in elevating their share of state procurement contracts.

Executive Order 20 concentrates on expanding procurement opportunities for SWAMs which include firms called “small businesses.”

In Virginia, a business with up to 250 employees and revenue of $10 million in revenue for a two year period is defined as small.

Many of these firms which earn more in revenue are owned by white males, and place MWBEs at a disadvantage in competing with them for contracts.

Executive Order 20 seeks to remedy this factor by creating a “micro-business” designation which covers businesses with fewer than 25 employees and less than $3 million in annual revenue.

“This is a good first step we applaud,” said Bruce Williams, who raised the question during the October 10 listening event. ”But this still places MWBEs in competition with mostly advantaged white male-owned businesses.”

Read the full article here

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