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Do diverse businesses get their fair share of state contracts?

Advisory council commissions study to find out

Pennsylvania has hired a Colorado-based research firm to gather data on any discrimination small-business owners might face in their pursuit of government contracts.

The Department of General Services hopes to use information from the study to create a baseline against which it can measure progress on efforts to spur development of businesses owned by minorities, women, veterans, individuals with disabilities and members of the LGBT community.

“We need to do a better job when it comes to delivering policies and programs that will enable our small diverse businesses to get a fair shot at doing business with the commonwealth,” said Kerry Kirkland, a York native who serves as deputy secretary for the Department of General Services’s diversity division.

The state is billing the nearly $900,000 disparity study as the first of its kind in Pennsylvania. Denver-based BBC Research & Consulting expects to release  results within 15 months of the project’s start, after which the state will look for solutions to any issues the study uncovers.

BBC has conducted 22 studies over the past five years, including recent disparity studies for state transportation departments in Indiana and California, according to a news release from the Department of General Services.

The idea to compile a report for Pennsylvania originated in the Governor’s Advisory Council on Diversity, Inclusion and Small Business Opportunities, a group Gov Tom Wolf created via executive order in 2015. Wolf tasked the group with finding ways help small businesses access state contracts, grants, financing and other resources.

The council has reported several accomplishments since its creation, including adopting a more reliable method for recording the number of small diverse businesses with which the state does business and creating a program to provide such companies with access to low-interest loans and lines of credit, according to a report the group released in January. 

Aside from completing the disparity report, the council’s goals include greatly increasing the participation rate of small diverse businesses in state contracts in the coming years and establishing a business mentoring program.

Jennifer Wentz
Jennifer Wentz covers Lancaster County, York County, financial services, taxation and legal services. Have a tip or question for her? Email her at jwentz@cpbj.com.

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