Agencies throughout the Empire State could use the stellar examples and hard statistics from the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY) when it comes to utilizing the invaluable resources of minority- and women-owned business enterprises (M/WBE), which was the theme of the organization’s annual conference last week in Albany.

Following through on an initiative first introduced and implemented during the administration of former Gov. David Paterson, DASNY boasts a whopping 25 percent M/WBE participation rate-a stat that far outdistances any other agency in the state.

Paul T. Williams Jr., DASNY president, said agencies throughout the state continue to come up short when it comes to recruiting and contracting M/WBEs. Williams said DASNY makes it a point to contract M/WBEs for many of its multimillion contracting projects throughout the state. A prime example of this occurred last year when DASNY struck a billion-dollar deal with M.R. Beal & Co. for its $1.3 billion personal income tax bond issuance agreement. The Wall Street-based firm is one of the largest minority-owned investment banks in the nation, ranked No. 4 by Black Enterprise magazine.

“Leadership, compliance and the re-evaluation of commitment are the key elements in getting agencies across the state to utilize minority-owned businesses,” Williams said during one of several forums at the two-day conference. “The issue of vendor diversity in state contracts is crucial.”

Former New York City Comptroller and mayoral candidate William Thompson moderated a panel discussion that featured several of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s key M/WBE team executives. During the nearly two-hour panel discussion, Thompson frequently chimed in on his views regarding the poor record of various agencies using M/WBEs across the state. “It’s clear that some state agency directors are simply not committed to M/WBEs,” he said. “This has been an ongoing problem.”

RoAnn Destito, commissioner for the Office of General Services (OGS), said her office, which awards millions of dollars of contracts annually to vendors, has not come close to meeting the goals set by Cuomo or Paterson. “Our M/WBE numbers could be better and are far less than those of the Dormitory Authority,” Destito said. She added that on several occasions, OGS has used the services of non-certified M/WBEs. Those vendors are not counted as mandated M/WBEs and are excluded from the governor-specified M/WBE goal objectives.

According to state guidelines, M/WBEs must certified in order to bid on many state procurement projects. However, some potential vendors opt not to complete the cumbersome and costly application process that offers no guarantee of landing a lucrative state contract.

Finally, Williams said this year’s DASNY conference was a success and encouraged many of the hundreds of conference attendees to submit bids on several of the outstanding requests for proposals that his agency has available. “We are committed to increasing the number of M/WBEs,” he said.

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