Minority and women business owners who are looking for contracts with New York City agencies may be finding a warmer welcome today than in the previous city administration. In an exclusive interview with The Network Journal, Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff des-cribed the accomplishments of the Department of Small Business Services and outlined the department’s initiatives to “inform, educate and train the minority business community.”
SBS was created by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in 2002, eight years after former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani dismantled a program for minority and women business enterprises that was established by his predecessor, Mayor David Dinkins. The new agency is intended as a one-stop shop to serve the needs of the city’s 200,000-plus small businesses, including MWBEs.
“We have painstakingly put into place the system to get where we need to get—the people, the legal authority and accountability,” Doctoroff says. “We have installed in agencies people responsible for MWBE programs and benchmarks have been established for agencies to follow.”
Among other accomplishments, he cites:
• Local Law 129 of 2005, which mandates that city agencies buy more goods and services from firms certified with SBS as minority or women-owned business enterprises.
• An increase in contract letting, with $111 million worth of contracts awarded to MWBEs in the 2006 fiscal year, ended June 2007.
• More companies are obtaining MWBE certification, a criterion for bidding on city contracts. “We simplified the certification process. Certification validity is extended for five years,” Doctoroff says.
• Recertification rates also are up. “The rate of recertification went from 25 percent in fiscal year 2006 to 50 percent in fiscal year 2007. By the time we get to the end of 2009, we will have increased to close to 100 percent.”
• A “Breaking New Ground” initiative that works with certified companies to improve their submissions to the city for private contractor jobs, thereby enhancing their chances of being given those jobs.
• E-mails to inform certified companies of program or procurement opportunities for which they qualify.
• Help for companies in preparing bids and classes to help them navigate the bidding process.
SBS, with its MWBE Advisory Board and a staff of 30 that is focused solely on MWBE affairs, clearly is a jewel in the Bloomberg administration’s small business crown. Even so, “Not as fast as we would like because what we inherited was such a mess,” Doctoroff says. “The biggest stumbling block [to fair access for all] is time. Every day that we’re not in a position to help is a day wasted. It’s a race for us, too.”
Commercial development projects in the city’s five boroughs already are underway or on the drawing board are attracting both government and private money, Doctoroff says. They include the 125th street rezoning and 116th Street “Uptown New York” projects; construction of the Gateway Center Mall at the Bronx Terminal Market; revitalization of the so-called Apple Corridor, which runs west across 161st Street from the southern tip of the Bronx and down Third Avenue and is expected to be “a booming area over the next ten years;” rezoning in Jamaica, Queens, for commercial development and housing; and similar projects in the Rockaways and downtown Brooklyn.
A year ago, Bloomberg launched PlanYC to manage the challenges of sustainable growth envisioned for the city. The plan focuses on the five key dimensions of the city’s environment: land, air, water, energy and transportation. It’s an emphasis on the physical future of the city that will generate “enormous opportunities” for small, minority- and women-owned businesses, Doctoroff says.