Warner promotes better opportunities for minority firms

When Carolyn Smith-Shrey took ownership of her late husband’s fencing business, she got state certification as a woman-owned business, securing her spot on a minority business list that state agencies are supposed to use when putting contracts out for bid.

Years on the list have garnered some publicity, but not necessarily meant more business for D&W Fencing, based in Haymarket, Smith-Shrey said.

The state “has not done as well as it should or could” in efforts to buy from minority, disadvantaged and women-owned businesses, said Gov. Mark R. Warner.

The Virginia State Procurement Act requires state agencies to include minority businesses in their procurement efforts, but the act is largely ignored.

Warner signed an executive order this week directing all state agencies to adhere to the act, and directed each agency submit a report by Aug. 15 detailing what steps have been taken to engage minority businesses.

Minority businesses defined as having at least 51 percent ownership by a minority comprise about 15 percent of Virginia businesses, according to the U.S. Census.

But last year, only 1.44 percent of state contracts were awarded to minority businesses. About $324 million, or 5.7 percent, of the state’s $5.7 billion annual procurement budget was spent with minority companies.

There is no law requiring that a certain amount of money or contracts go to minority businesses, only that they be included in the procurement process.

The state Department of Minority Business Enterprise was created in 1974 to help minorities open businesses and win contracts from state government. It certifies minority businesses and compiles a list given to state agencies.

The DMBE list of certified minority businesses has fewer than 2,000 companies, said Ellen Qualls, spokeswoman for Warner.

It includes 32 businesses from Prince William and Manassas.

To earn certification, businesses must prove that they are owned by a member of a minority group. The process takes about 30 days, according to the DMBE.

Smith-Shrey said earning, and maintaining, certification requires a load of paperwork and can be very time consuming. But it does garner publicity for her company, which does a lot of highway fencing work for the Virginia Department of Transportation.

“It puts my name out there, so people will call me and after they’ve worked with me they realize that I really do know what I’m doing,” she said.

Warner said that by signing the executive order, he is taking steps to ensure that minority businesses “have a fair shake in getting a share of the commonwealth’s business.”

To find out more about procurement opportunities or how to become a certified as a minority business, contact the DMBE at http://www.dmbe.state.va.us.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Similar Posts