Gov. David Paterson, the first black governor of New York, promised Thursday that his administration will push to increase the number of state contracts that go to minority- and women-owned businesses. He wants to increase the amount from 3 percent in 2007 to 20 percent by 2010.
“There’s a new sheriff in town,” he said.
Paterson spoke at an event organized by the New York State Office for Technology and the Empire State Development Corp. It was held at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center. Approximately 140 minority- and women-owned companies as well as a number of large high-tech companies attended.
The first speaker scheduled for the event was CBS Sports commentator James Brown, but Brown was delayed. Paterson wasn’t scheduled to appear but arrived to fill the void left by Brown.
He said former Gov. Eliot Spitzer in 2007 had issued an executive order calling for a “level playing field” in the dispersal of state contracts. Paterson said existing legal protections should have been enough to guarantee a level playing field, but statistics show that minority and women-owned companies continue to struggle with obtaining government contracts.
“We have 26 percent of our businesses in the state run by women, 23 percent run by Asians, blacks, Hispanics and other minorities and when you add it up they get approximately 5 percent of the [government contracts].”
Ann Moynihan, the president and owner of Rensselaer-based technology firm Documentation Strategies Inc., said her company has benefited from state contracts for 25 years. She said navigating the requirements of doing business with New York state can be a major obstacle for novice women and minority firms.
“It probably took us a couple of years to figure out how to do it. One of the purposes of this event is to make it easier. This is an opportunity to learn about how it works.” Moynihan said.
Michael Jones-Bey, the director of the Empire State Development Corporation’s Division of Minority and Women Owned Business Development, said Paterson’s commitment to extend more state contracts to minorities and women will have a profound effect on economic development throughout the state. He said his office has worked to put up a new Web site, www.nylovesmwbe.ny.gov.
Sam Mannikarottu, the president of Loudonville-based Maccs Print shop, said he decided to attend the event hoping to meet new clients.
“This is an open venue for everybody to come and explore new horizons,” Mannikarottu said.
Paterson said New York needs to expand its support for business. He said more of the 200 most successful black-owned businesses are located in Huntsville, Ala., than all of New York state. He acknowledged that a legacy of chronically high taxes has severely damaged New York’s business community.
“We’ve shot ourselves in the foot. We’ve discriminated, not only against minority and women-owned businesses, but businesses run by anybody in the regions upstate where … the north country and western New York are struggling for survival,” he said.