Public policy experts from New Jersey’s legislative, regulatory and philanthropic sectors are stressing the need to introduce more equitable practices in the government contracting process.
During a May 24 virtual panel hosted by national urban affairs magazine and nonprofit Next City in partnership with award-winning social good public relations and marketing agency Tara Dowdell Group, stakeholders discussed the importance of increasing access to procurement opportunities for minority-owned ventures.
Despite the fact that businesses owned by Blacks, Latinos and other minorities make up nearly 20% of U.S. employers, just 10% of federal agencies’ contracting dollars go to these companies, according to the Biden-Harris administration.
The discussion – which featured Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter, D-35th District, Wells Fargo Foundation President Otis Rolley and New Jersey Economic Development Authority Chief Community Development Officer Tai Cooper – explored actionable tips on how policymakers can make the process more equitable.
The event also explored practical strategies for streamlining procurement to attract diverse talent, reduce costs, and increase outreach to small businesses—particularly Black and brown-owned enterprises.
“Soon after the George Floyd uprisings, companies and venture capitalists went on record committing billions of dollars to support Black businesses, resulting in historic year-over-year gains in capital for these entrepreneurs. However, by the end of 2022, that generosity dried up, resulting in a 45% drop in financing going to these entrepreneurs,” stated Rolley. “However, while the private capital markets pull back their spending, governments and philanthropic organizations have stepped in to fill the void.”
Through the NJEDA, Cooper said the state provides “a multitude of resources and opportunities for small business owners to help them jumpstart their ventures, including step-by-step walkthroughs of the application process.”
“We understand that interfacing with the government can seem intimidating, and we are here to let the public know that we’ve heard you, and we’re here for you if you have any questions or require assistance. Our mission at NJEDA is to let the public know that opportunities are available to ensure government is equitable and inclusive,” she added.
Sumter said, “For too long, Black and brown people have largely been excluded from the government contracting process. We see that over 90% of prime contracts go to non-minority males, particularly in industries where Black and brown owners are well represented, like the construction, professional services, and goods and services industries.”
“Luckily, New Jersey has been a national leader in championing policy solutions at the state and city levels that help level the playing field for these entrepreneurs. By intentionally reaching these communities, New Jersey can bridge the divide and broaden its network of minority small business partners,” said Sumter, who went on to thank Rolley and Cooper for participating in the talk.