BY LETITIA JAMES
New York City Public Advocate
When we talk about jobs and the economy, a lot is said about the importance of small businesses in growing the middle class. But what is often missing from the dialogue is that women – and especially women of color – are the ones driving the small business growth across the country.
According to analysis from the National Women’s Business Council, the number of business owned by Asian women has grown by 44 percent, those owned by black women have grown by 67 percent, and businesses owned by Hispanic women have grown by 87 percent – all between 2007 and 2012.
New York City and State have made some significant progress to help promote this growth, but the truth is that we still have a long way to go in unlocking the full economic potential of female entrepreneurs of color.
In 2014, New York City had a whopping $17.8 billion procurement budget. But less than four percent of that was awarded to minority and women owned businesses (MWBEs).
We cannot accept this as the status quo. In fact, when we look outside of New York City, our state as a whole is doing an impressive job at meeting and exceeding 20 percent MWBE procurement goals.
That’s because New York State has a dedicated Division of Minority and Women’s Business Development, which operates under clear directives from the governor’s office, and provides a strong business certification program.
This year, I’m proud to support Governor Cuomo as he doubles down on this success with a proposal to tie ambitious MWBE goals to any and all state funding given to cities – including New York.
But it is going to be up to New York City to step up and do its part to support women and communities of color that are crucial to a vibrant and resilient economy.
As Public Advocate, I have been working hard to try to get our City on a better path. Last fall, I joined with Mayor de Blasio to establish a new $10 million predevelopment loan fund that will be a lifeline for small businesses. We are also providing a separate and additional $10 million fund to help MWBEs secure the bonds they need to qualify for City contracts.
By providing loans and bonds to these small businesses, we are lifting up women and lifting up people of color by ensuring that their businesses have the same competitive advantages in bidding for city contracts.
But we can’t stop there. Our city must finally commit to creating a chief diversity officer – just like the state has. I’m also pushing legislation to make it mandatory for the City’s Department of Small Business Services to conduct trainings for all agency chief contracting officers and agency MWBE contracting officers regarding hiring of MWBEs for city projects,
New York City is home to over 700,000 MWBEs and growing. Each one of these deserve a fair shot to be a part of our City’s prosperity.