The New York City Department of Small Business Services (SBS) today received the "2004 Agency Advocate Award" from the Association of Minority Enterprises of New York, Inc. (AMENY). SBS Commissioner Robert W. Walsh accepted the award on behalf of the Bloomberg Administration at AMENY's 28th Annual Legislative Business Development Conference in Albany. SBS was honored for its achievements including making the commitment to monitor actively each City Agency's utilization of Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (MWBE), to implement more opportunities for MWBEs by instituting new policies, to form strategic partnerships, and to enhance customer service through technology.
"From the outset of my administration, growing and strengthening small businesses has been a key priority, particularly minority- and women-owned businesses," said Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. "Small businesses make up nearly half of New York City's private sector workforce and form the foundation of our City's economy. Our long-term economic prospects hinge on their success, and Commissioner Walsh and SBS have made great strides in increasing opportunities for MWBEs and enhancing their ability to compete. I am pleased that AMENY has recognized those efforts, and continues to work with my administration to do even more for the minority business community."
"The Mayor has shown genuine respect and support for the minority business community," said James Heyliger, President of the Association of Minority Enterprises of New York. "We are pleased that he appointed a Commissioner that understands the importance of small businesses, and Commissioner Walsh has demonstrated by his actions that he is truly an advocate for the minority business community."
"It is an honor to receive such a meaningful award from such an outstanding group," said SBS Commissioner Robert W. Walsh. "It truly is a testament to the Bloomberg Administration's relentless focus on serving the needs of small business in an aggressive, client oriented approach. Nearly a third of New York City firms are minority-owned and over a quarter are woman-owned. We will continue to implement the Mayor's vision and work with the MWBE community to spread success across the City."
SBS made two important policy changes to increase opportunities for small businesses bidding on City contracts. In the past, when making small purchases-goods or services valued at $100,000 or less-City agencies received a random list of five bidders from the general vendor pool. Now, in addition to those five bidders, City agencies receive another randomly selected list of five bidders from the small vendor pool, which includes certified Locally Based Enterprises (LBE) and MWBEs. This guarantees that small firms will be solicited more often, and therefore, increases their likelihood of getting contracts. The second important policy change was raising the gross income cap for all LBEs to $2,000,000 from a low of $675,000. This change allows more firms to certify as LBEs and reflects the rate of inflation.
Strategic partnerships have significantly helped SBS certify more companies as MWBEs use the City's vast procurement resources as an economic development tool. SBS actively recruited community partners throughout the five boroughs to "Train-the-Trainer" workshops, where representatives learn the certification process and then go out to help MWBEs in their communities complete the application. This eliminates the need for business owners to travel into Lower Manhattan to take SBS' certification class and enables businesses to learn how to certify in their own language with a member of their community.
SBS has also formed relationships with other certifying agencies such as the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Women's Business Enterprise National Council to broaden the pool of MWBEs. By partnering with and educating local development organizations, SBS has also been able to reach more constituents with information and services. Additionally, SBS partnered with Turner Construction to train over 102 small construction firms to be subcontractors. Thanks to SBS' outreach efforts, this was the second largest class nationally in the Turner program's 30-year history, and the largest class ever in New York City.
SBS used technology to increase access for all small businesses:
- All certification application materials are now available online at www.nyc.gov/sbs, and clients can download applications or SBS can email them to users. All application materials are being translated into Spanish as well.
- SBS created a free, user-friendly, searchable directory of MWBEs and LBEs, also located at www.nyc.gov/sbs, which enables buyers in both the public and private sectors to identify and solicit vendors. The directory features the vendors' names, contact information, hotlinks to their web sites and information about the size and types of contracts they recently fulfilled.
- SBS implemented a free bid-matching system that sends daily email notifications of bidding opportunities for Federal, State and City contracts to over 700 small vendors.
- SBS instituted a system that identifies potential MWBEs, LBEs and other small businesses as they become City vendors, enabling the City to target specific services and programs to them.
Administratively, SBS achieved efficiencies and streamlined procedures to make certification and re-certification easier. SBS eliminated the certification application backlog, simplified the re-certification process, reducing the number of documents needed for re-certification from twenty-one documents to less than ten, and boosted productivity by significantly reducing the average time to process a completed application from two months to two weeks. In addition, SBS offers free monthly classes in "Selling to Government" and "Certification," which is also available in Spanish. Trainers also teach classes off-site, as requested, to groups of at least eight business owners.
AMENY continues to function as one of the foremost advocates for the minority business community. Over the years, AMENY has promoted the economic growth of minority business, fought for legislation affecting minority business development and has increased the number of MWBEs obtaining contracts, bonding and financing from various agencies and private sector firms in New York State.