White Plains, NY - Westchester County Board of Legislators Chairman William Ryan (D, I, WFP-White Plains) announced today that he is creating a new special committee of the Legislature to focus on the needs of minority and women-owned business enterprises (MWBE).  In announcing the new panel, Ryan said the main objective is to strengthen existing minority and women-owned businesses throughout the county and to promote the growth of this important component of the county’s economy.

“Small and mid-tier businesses and the jobs in these segments are the core of the local economy.  Job creation is the key to pulling out of this economic recession.  Retaining and creating new jobs in the growing MWBE component of our economy will help the recovery process.  New job opportunities and putting people back to work will ensure a stronger economy in the months and years ahead,” said Chairman Ryan.

Chairman Ryan has named Legislator Lyndon Williams (D-Mount Vernon) to serve as Chair of the new committee, which will have direct oversight over the county’s MWBE program and bid-contract award process.  “This new special committee will work to remove barriers and ensure that any resident who seeks to become financially independent by engaging in business and entrepreneurship will find a fair and open environment in Westchester,” said Legislator Williams.

The creation of the Special Committee on Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises is the second step in three months taken by Chairman Ryan to engage the County Board in work aimed at boosting the local economy.  Back in March, the Chairman established the Legislative Task Force on Westchester Economic Recovery to ensure that the county is taking maximum advantage of the stimulus money being made available to counties from the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and to work with local governments, business groups, non-profits, and the public to develop ideas and initiatives to boost the economy on the local front. 

“Early on, the Task Force identified an immediate need to address the concerns of minority and women-owned businesses,” said Ryan.  Legislator Williams added, “In recent years, MWBE’s have come under much state and federal scrutiny.  Unfortunately, it’s been determined that this growing segment of our business sector has been underutilized and often overlooked during the competitive bidding / contract awarding process.  This new special committee will be empowered to push an aggressive legislative agenda that will build the capacity of MWBE firms and increase the utilization of qualified MWBE’s throughout the county.” 

The discussion of MWBE’s has intensified recently in government circles, especially in Albany. Governor David Paterson has made commitments to encourage and assist state agencies in their efforts to increase participation by MWBE’s on state contracts so as to facilitate the award of a fair share of such contracts. National data reflects that 39.5 percent of minority-owned businesses are Hispanic-owned, 30.0 percent are Asian-owned, 27.1 percent are African American-owned and 6.5 percent are American Indian-owned. According to recent reports, last year, the state spent over $11 billion in discretionary expenditures and MWBE’s only received 3% of state contracts.

With regard to economic recovery, Chairman Ryan said “We have an economy in Westchester of varied and diverse components.  Minority and women-owned businesses are an important part of that mix.  A strong and growing MWBE sector will help ensure a successful economic recovery in our region.” 

Joining Chairman Ryan and Legislator Williams at today’s announcement were several members of the Board of Legislators and a number of individuals who work to promote MWBE’s.  They include Robin Douglas, President of the African American Chamber of Commerce of Westchester and Rockland Counties, Anne Janiak, Executive Director & Founder of the Women’s Enterprise Development Center, Tracey Mitchell, Director of the Westchester County Office of African American Affairs, John Hsu, Deputy Commissioner of the County Department of Public Works-Departmental Minority Business Liaison, Michael Carriere, Representative for District Council No. 9 – Local 113 (IUPAT) and members of the United Association of Contractors and Developers.

“The County Legislature has a history of leading on issues of public interest and concern to its residents, and today, I am thrilled at the creation of this special committee and look forward to rolling out an aggressive agenda,” said Williams.

Legislator Williams outlined the unique oversight responsibilities of the new special committee:

  • Ensuring Westchester County provide fertile ground for the development of MWBEs, promote employment opportunities, a more open competitive process and fair access to the County’s competitive bid / contract awarding process. 
  • Ensuring the practice of “fair share” contracts, as stated in the State Article 15-A of the Executive Law, is adhered to in Westchester 
  • Examining and addressing the disparities between the numbers of qualified MWBE’s ready, willing and able to perform county contracts for commodities, service and construction and the number of such entities actually engaged in such contracts within the County. 
  • Recommending changes, if any, to state and/or county policies affecting MWBE’s, where appropriate 
  • Reviewing and recommending corrective County action affecting MWBE’s, where appropriate 
  • Ensuring MWBE’s fully participate in opportunities provided by anticipated Federal stimulus initiatives  
  • Promoting and fostering better relationships between the County and MWBEs