With far too many contracts eluding minority- and women-owned enterprises in New York City’s construction industry, a Hispanic real estate and construction group launched an initiative to better position such enterprises for new business expected to come their way if the city’s comptroller gets his wish.
In 2010 alone, $19.5 billion worth of construction projects were started in the city, according to the New York Building Congress, a coalition of business, labor, association and government organizations promoting the design, construction and real estate industry in New York City. That figure was a 15 percent increase from the $16.9 billion in projects commenced in 2009, although it was 5 percent below 2008, when construction starts in the city reached $20.6 billion.
In an online report card that sheds light on the city’s failure to spend the city’s spending with minority- and women-owned businesses, New York City Comptroller John C. Liu asserted that only 2.3 percent of the city’s business with the private sector reached minority and women entrepreneurs in 2010. Much has been touted in recent years regarding the city’s strides in MWBE contracting, but the reality is that the city has no accurate system in place to track the billions of dollars spent on subcontractors, Liu’s unprecedented report says. Moreover, it states, little has been done to level the playing field when it comes time for the city to assign necessary contracts. “In a city like New York, we do a lot of business with the private sector — $17 billion last year. Unfortunately, not enough of that goes to minority and women entrepreneurs. That has to change,” Liu says.
“M/WBE Report Card NYC,” available at www.mymoneynyc.com, is updated daily with data from the city’s Financial Management System to identify and record all city expenditures on prime contracts.
To help ensure that minority- and women-owned construction companies will be able to take advantage of new business opportunities, the New York Hispanics in Real Estate and Construction Association’s “Operation Construction Force” initiative will finance the labor costs of these companies and provide them with trained and skilled workers and laborers. Proponents of the initiative say it greatly reduces the administrative costs of these companies, since payroll is handled entirely by Construction Force Inc., the staffing firm that provides the trained and skilled workers and laborers. MWBE contractors with credit issues can still qualify for benefits as long as the project contract end user is a government entity or a bona fide creditworthy corporation and, if the need arises, they are willing as end users to dispatch two-party checks for the labor portion of the project contract.
“In short, the MWBE contractor will not have to absorb the cost of labor between each requisition payment during the course of the project contract as long as there is a third-party guarantor. It can even have their prevailing wages paid and administered by the program thus alleviating any chances of labor law violations being levied against their company,” the Hispanic real estate and construction group says.
Peter Fontanes, the group’s chair, says, “With Operation Construction Force, you can now say goodbye to administrative overheads dealing with field operations and workmen compensation. Operation Construction Force will also work in collaboration with other sponsors like Moen, United Rentals, DeWalt and OSHA safety training centers to insure that workers and laborers fully understand their specific trade skills so that when they complete the program, they will know what they are doing and the employers and the end users will have full confidence in the workforce on their projects.”
The association was founded in 1992 by Hispanic real estate and construction professionals and businessowners.