News Column

New Law Opens Doors for M/WBEs in NYC

Jan 10, 2013

Rebecca Villaneda--HispanicBusiness

women in construction

This week in New York City, lawmakers signed Local Law 1-2013 that will improve opportunities for Minority- and Women-owned Business Enterprises (M/WBEs).

Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed the new law Jan. 7 updating the participation goals of Local Law 129 of 2005. In particular, Local Law 1-2013 will remove a $1 million cap on eligible contracts set by Law 129 and increase city procurement contracts for goods, professional services, construction, standard services and architectural and engineering services, according to The New Agenda, a coalition of organizations in the M/WBE community.

To Elizabeth Velez, who has worked in the construction industry for more than 20 years, the new law is a great opportunity for minority- and women-owned businesses.

"Previous to this law, small business, and in particular Hispanic (enterprises), weren't able to have access procurement contracts for years," said Ms. Velez, who is president and chief contract administrator of Velez Organization. The new law "will affect in three major ways. It will increase the pie by over quadruple the amount, create accountability, and supports the concept of joint ventures, mentor-protégé programs and strategic partnerships."

By eliminating the $1 million cap, the new law will multiply the total value of program-eligible contracts from $433 million to $2.2 billion, according to The New Agenda.

Sandra Wilkin, president of Bradford Construction and co-chairwoman of The New Agenda, said it is about time women in the construction industry get their turn at major projects.

"Often these businesses are handed down from one male to another male and women grew up not considered," Wilkin said. "We're changing that and you'll see that change both in the workforce, in the field and women working as electricians and realizing the opportunities that are there in an industry that was pretty much only supported by males."

Velez is an example of this. Her father started the Velez Organization in 1971, and now she is running the company. Another important aspect of Local Law 1-2013, according to Velez, is the establishment of accountability.

The law will implement mandatory quarterly meetings where a high-level administration official will hold agency M/WBE officers accountable semiannually for their M/WBE statistics. Commissioners must join their agency M/WBE officers at these meetings to discuss their progress toward achieving MWBE goals and their efforts to increase participation, according to the New York City Council.

Velez said she believes this law will not only catch on in other cities, but will also have a ripple effect in the private sector.

"We are all feeling these changes," she said. "In the recovery, we're all working together."

Local Law 1-2013 also will require revising certification and the M/WBE directory, "specifically by requiring the establishment of guidelines to perform precertification site visits, allowing the establishment of guidelines to recognize M/WBE certification from other governmental entities, and increasing information in the directory," according to a The New York City Council.

Because the law new law includes joint ventures, smaller firms now have a crack at projects by the Department of Protection, which has the largest construction budget for the city of New York, according to Wilkin.

"It's been a difficult and long journey for both women and minority businesses to make sure they are included in projects from the city of New York," Wilkin said. "You'll see an increase in workforce development in the next five or 10 years. It takes a while for that kind of change, it doesn't happen overnight."

Source: (c) 2013. All rights reserved.

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