Developing N.Y.’s M/WBEs: The NMBC calls for a separate commission

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The National Minority Business Council Inc. has called on New York Governor-elect Eliot Spitzer to establish a permanent commission on minority and women business affairs that would be dedicated to the development of enterprises owned by minorities and women. In a letter dated Oct. 26, 2006, the NMBC urged then-Attorney General Spitzer to consider signing an executive order to institutionalize the commission during his first days in office as governor, should he be elected. In so doing, the letter indicates, the commission would be ready to immediately begin its work on behalf of the state’s M/WBEs. As of press time, Governor-elect Spitzer had not responded to the letter.

“Minority- and women-owned businesses have grown in number and size over the last four decades. Although much has been accomplished, much remains to be done to ensure their continued growth and development throughout New York State,” says John F. Robinson, president and CEO of the NMBC, who co-authored the proposal.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2002 Survey of Business Owners, the most current, shows minority and women-owned businesses growing at a faster rate than businesses overall. Between 1997 and 2002, the number of Black-owned businesses grew 45 percent, more than four times the national average; Hispanic-owned businesses grew 31 percent, triple the national average; Asian-owned businesses grew 24 percent, about twice the national average; and women-owned businesses grew 20 percent, the report says. New York State had the greatest number of Black-owned firms, accounting for 10.8 percent of all Black-owned firms, at 129,329, with receipts of $7.5 billion, the report says.  Moreover, New York City had more Black-owned firms at (98,076) than any other city in the country.

NMBC’s call for the commission comes amid concerns about the lack of a supportive statewide infrastructure to ensure that minority-owned enterprises stay in business and in the state, Robinson says. For the last 12 years, New York state has lacked a comprehensive strategy to grow existing firms. The infrastructure that was in place to do just that during the administration of Governor Mario Cuomo essentially disappeared in subsequent administrations, Robinson says.  

“We believe the time has come to institutionalize New York’s commitment to the minority and women business community by way of a special commission whose major goals would be to review existing laws affecting M/WBE procurement from state agencies; propose ways to strengthen these laws; and propose new executive order and legislative initiatives to enhance M/WBE state procurement opportunities,” says Geneive Brown Metzger, chair of the NMBC Women’s Business Committee and co-author of the proposal.

The full commission proposal was sent with the letter to Spitzer and copies of both were sent to state senators David A. Paterson, Malcolm A. Smith and Ruth Hassell-Thompson. If the commission is established, Paterson, who has since been elected the state’s lieutenant governor, likely will be responsible for carrying out its work, Robinson says. Spitzer indicated during his campaign for the governorship that the lieutenant governor’s office would be charged with overseeing the state’s M/WBE program.

“The NMBC stands ready to assist the new administration to implement the proposed commission initiative,” NMBC Board Chairman Gregory S. Reid Esq. says.