BY TRONE DOWD
Efforts to help the city’s sector of Minority and Women Owned Businesses (MWBEs) continues with the rollout of a new assistance initiative from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration.
On Wednesday, the mayor announced that the city’s Office of Minority Owned Business Enterprises would partner with one local organization per borough to help inform eligible businesses on how to register and re-certify as a minority owned contraction. MWBEs would also receive pointers on how to remain competitive in the eyes of those who hire from the city’s business directory.
In Queens, the city will work alongside the Queens Economic Development Corporation (QEDC). For 40 years, the QEDC has worked to develop, strengthen and sustain small businesses in Queens through various programs.
De Blasio hopes that the plan will “boost city contracting opportunities for M/WBEs.”
“This new partnership will ensure that all businesses and firms led by diverse individuals have the chance to compete for City contracts,” de Blasio said. “We know that when all people – regardless of race, gender or ethnicity – have the proper resources to reach their full potential, communities across the five boroughs will reap the benefits of their success.”
Prior to the mayor’s announcement, the QEDC had already become a resource for local MWBEs. Starting in 2012, the organization had led both one-on-one sessions and group training to help MWBEs gain equal footing in the competitive contracting business.
Ricardi Calixte, the MWBE’s coordinator with the QEDC, told the Queens Tribune that with the mayor’s partnership, that work will expand.
“The reach will be a lot more expansive,” Calixte said. “We are really trying to drill down and get everybody exposed to the program.”
As a part of the new initiative, the QDEC will now be able to work with Nassau County based businesses, bringing them into the fold for potential city partnerships.
“The Nassau County market is worth tapping into,” Calixte said. “There’s a lot of eligible businesses out there that are not certified.”
According to Calixte, the partnership is already underway. Both the QEDC and the mayor’s office are looking closely at results until the end of the fiscal quarter set for June 30.
In Southeast Queens, MWBE’s are a big concern for residents. Business owners have repeatedly brought up concerns as to how local small businesses can find opportunities to work lucrative partnerships in the city and in the community. Two weeks ago, the topic of MWBEs was discussed extensively at a town hall meeting led by city Comptroller Scott Stringer. Local officials expressed satisfaction with the mayor’s plan.
“Part of the reason MWBEs have a hard time getting their fair share of city contracts is because they are not properly certified and their skills aren’t adequately promoted,” State Sen. James Sanders Jr. (D-South Ozone Park) said. “This new partnership is a worthy step forward in remedying these problem areas. As the father of M/WBEs, having authored Local Law 1 and Local 129 during my time in the City Council, I support the city’s commitment.”
State Sen. Leroy Comrie (D- St. Albans) said “promoting minority- and women-owned businesses strengthens local economy and makes our city more equitable.”
Councilman I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) also endorsed the plan.
“Having hosted several MWBE forums in my district, I have seen firsthand how a one-on-one consultation can help these entrepreneurs become certified,” Miller said. “Having a dedicated person for every borough will only help to remove the barriers they currently face.”
According to the mayor’s office, this new program is just the latest in a collection of long term plans to award 30 percent of city contract dollars to MWBEs over the next four years. They say that this commitment will help keep the city on track to reach its OneNYC goal, which is to award $16 billion dollars to M/WBEs by 2025.
For small business owners looking to take advantage of the services, call the Queens Economic Development Corporation at (718)263-0546. Its office is located at 120-55 Queens Blvd. in Kew Gardens.