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CPBJ Extra Blog

Do small diversity-owned businesses need special consideration to win contracts?

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Here's something interesting that staff reporter Jason Scott shared with me last week: Sen. Anthony Williams is looking to introduce a bill that would “promote Commonwealth procurement with small diverse businesses, which are currently lost in the unpredictable and confusing certification processes.”

Williams, D-Delaware and Philadelphia counties, cites several claims in his pitch for the bill, including that the "African-American Chamber of Commerce of PA/NJ/DE (says) only 18% of their businesses are certified for Commonwealth procurement. Additionally, the Philadelphia Daily News reports that large corporations often form or use 'pass-through' organizations for an advantage in bidding. Further, large prime contractors are abusing small diverse subcontractors by refusing to follow through on payments."

Those are some weighty claims. I find that last one particularly odd, because you'd expect any subcontractors who were not being paid for work to be filing complaints.

Williams' pitch goes on:

"This legislation will ensure predictable, visible standards and methods for a minority-, woman-, veteran-, or service-disabled veteran-owned business to become certified as a small diverse business for procurement. It gives small diverse businesses tools such as a hotline to report fraud, assistance with certifications and contract compliance, and funneling contract modifications through the Bureau to combat against abuse by prime contractors. It also adds penalties for non-compliance and for abuse of a small diverse business's certified status."

I understand that this bill proposal is still in the planning stages, but I'd love to see how Williams suggest paying to staff such a hotline and to provide such assistance with certifications and contract compliance. In an age of cutting government employees — which means the remaining workers need to pick up the leftover work — I'm curious about how this new assistance would be provided and paid for.

On the other hand, I've love to hear from some of our midstate diversity-owned business owners on this topic. Is this truly a problem for you? Would such government-mandated help be welcome?

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Amy Gulli

Amy Gulli

Amy Gulli is the managing editor of the Central Penn Business Journal. Have a question or tip for her? Email her at Follow her on Twitter, @amygulli. Circle Amy Gulli on .

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