Black contractors trying to work to help rebuild during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy report that finding work is a little tough, as it is for many minority- and women-owned business enterprises (MWBEs) in contracting. However, a bill recently signed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg might give some relief.
Several MWBE contractors, ranging from construction to plumbing to demolition, are listed on the state’s website for use as recovery continues. However, according to leaders in the MWBE arena, many firms are not able to work because they can’t afford to operate in an emergency situation that asks them to work for free in most cases.
The AmNews contacted several Black contractors on the list provided by the state. Most reported that they had not done any work on the recovery efforts of Hurricane Sandy, which left mass devastation to structures. William Parrish, president and CEO of NobleStategy LLC, a construction management service for MWBEs, reports that none of the firms he works with have reported any opportunities to date. Parrish said that with over $550 million expected to be spent to help rebuild, he hopes MWBE firms have the opportunity to participate.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of large firms that have been around for a while. One of the things about this work is that it’s an emergency procurement. The city might suggest that you have to work for several weeks before getting paid,” he said.
Parrish added that many firms don’t have access to capital and could be asked to work for three to five months before getting paid. Many MWBE firms cannot afford to work that long without pay. Parrish said the solution is to have an emergency services protocol.
“Have a goal of using 20 percent MWBE and create a mechanism to support cash flow and payment,” he said. “These are complex problems to solve, and I believe we have some of the best and brightest working for the city.”
On Monday, Bloomberg signed into law Intro 911, which helps strengthen the MWBE program by building on the achievements of Local Law 129, passed in 2005. Local Law 129 helped increase the number of MWBE firms certified to participate in the city’s program from 700 to more than 3,500, with certified firms winning more than $3 billion in city contracts.
By removing the program’s $1 million cap on contracts, the new legislation increases the overall value of program-eligible contracts from $400 million to $2.2 billion, allowing MWBEs to compete more effectively for higher-valued contracts. The new legislation also increases accountability for city agencies to meet their contracting participation goals.
“More powerful than all the armies is the power of an idea whose time has come,” said the Rev. Jacques Andre DeGraff, first vice president of 100 Black Men. “Today’s action marks the culmination of years of effort. We are pleased that new doors of opportunity have been opened to us. Things will never be the same.”