Diversity report: Minority business owners in N.J. say NYC, Philly get it right

The state of New Jersey’s long-awaited disparity report — one that showed that minority- and women-led companies lag astonishingly behind when it comes to being awarded government contracts — came with a double-dose of dissension in the anecdotal comments.

The report, which is expected to be released later Tuesday, gave a window into how upset some minority business owners are with the current system of bidding for government contracts.

How bad is it? Consider this: A minority male owner of a professional services company told the firm compiling the study that he not only is considering relocating his business to another state — but said it could be to New York City.

His complaint: New York has far more effective minority- and women-owned business enterprise programs (known as MWBE programs).

“New York state’s minority business enterprise goals have helped us,” he was quoting as saying in the study. “So, I sometimes wonder why I have an office in New Jersey, but my staff are mainly working in New York. And I have to pay for their travel.

“It is becoming next to impossible to make any profit from the work we have in New York. So, I am seriously considering moving out of New Jersey for that reason.”

To be clear, the dozens of anecdotal comments that were included in the 221-page report prepared by California-based Mason Tillman Associates are anonymous.

There is no way to verify claims — and it could be a case of, “The grass is greener on the other side of the bridge.” But, it should be noted, numerous individuals pointed to New York as a model to follow.

For instance, a minority male owner of a professional services company believes prime contractors list minority subcontracts without utilizing their services because New Jersey does not have minority business enterprise goals:

“Unlike New York, on the New Jersey side, you do not have to demonstrate that you made any sincere effort to hire a minority company,” he said. “Prime contractors do not have to demonstrate anything. They do not have to reach out regarding subcontract work.”

Another minority male, the owner of a professional services company, recommended more communication regarding contracting opportunities to MBEs:

“The state should send notices to MBEs, just like New York state does,” he said. “They send us notices advising us to look out for upcoming jobs.”

A female owner of a professional services company described the state’s procurement process as inaccessible.

“I could not find the bid information,” she said. “It should be easily accessible, but it is not. They need a process that is direct like in New York. In New Jersey, it is like a hunting expedition looking for construction opportunities. It seems like the opportunities are hidden or buried.”

Not everyone pointed toward New York and New York City.

Some like Philadelphia and Pennsylvania.

A minority male owner of a professional services company said he feels New Jersey does not have an open process to learn about contracting opportunities — and that it’s intentional.

“I have complained in the past that New York and Pennsylvania have a much better open system than New Jersey has,” he said. “New Jersey does its own thing, and that is why it has huge disparities in terms of minority contractors getting work.”

A minority male owner of a professional services company said the state needs to model its MWBE Program after the one in Philadelphia.

“The city of Philadelphia has the best MWBE program by far,” he said. “The Philadelphia airport puts out amazing (Requests for Proposals) that support MWBEs. We were one of three contractors that won a contract with the City of Philadelphia at the airport.

“I suggest New Jersey look at their program.”

Read the report below.