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Will black firms get a bite of the Big Apple? Programs seek to ensure minority participation in New York City construction boom.

IN THE NEXT FIVE TO SEVEN YEARS, MORE THAN $100 billion in government and private construction contracts will be awarded within New York City. According to Michael Garner, senior director of business development for the New York City School Construction Authority (NYCSCA), new programs have been put in place to ensure that black firms get a piece of the pie.

This would be a revolutionary development since historically New York City has had an abysmal track record in giving black firms lucrative contracting opportunities, especially compared with commercial hubs such as Atlanta and Chicago. Sponsored by the New York City Department of Small Business Services, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and NYCSCA, these initiatives are expected to create lines of credit, link fledgling firms to seasoned contractors, waive specific fees such as bonding costs, and offer training to small, minority-owned contractors. These programs will also allow many of them to get involved with major projects such as the stadiums being built for the NBA's New Jersey Nets, and MLB's New York Mets and Yankees.

According to Garner, black firms constitute 17% of New York's construction companies; however, these are small firms. Not one black-owned construction firm in the New York metro area can be found on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list.

The NYCSCA has retained the services of Community Capital Development Corp., a subsidiary of Carver Federal Savings Bank (No. 1 on the BE BANKS list with $649 million in assets) to help supply small-business loans and initiate a program that provides affordable bonding. The mentoring program helps connect smaller firms with seasoned contractors such as Bovis Lend Lease, URS Corp., and STV Group.

In the next five years, NYCSCA plans to build more than 100 new schools for an estimated $13.3 billion. "Our goal is to award at least 20% ($2.6 billion) of that total to SCA-certified minority, women-owned, and locally based business enterprises," Garner says. During the past six years, the SCA's Mentor Program has awarded more than $295 million in contracts.

Bill Howell, president and CEO of Howell Industries, a 22-year-old black-owned construction management firm, says that six years ago his company received a contract through NYCSCA's mentor program that not only boosted sales but also taught him how to manage larger projects. During the program his company was involved in about six heater/ventilation air conditioning jobs and received contracts in excess of $1 million. "NYCSCA's mentor program provides a safety net that catches and guides a company to success," Howell says. Now his company serves as a mentor for smaller contractors.

The New York State Legislature supports such programs through legislation. And in 2005, Mayor Michael K Bloomberg signed into law the creation of a new minority-and women-owned business enterprise program. Under the law, minority companies will receive assistance in acquiring prime city contracts less than $1 million and access to municipal agencies to submit a plan related to achieving minority subcontracting goals on a range of projects. In 1994 then-mayor Rudolph Giuliani axed a program initiated by his predecessor, David N. Dinkins, in which minority/women-owned firms would get up to 20% of the city's contracts.

Familiar with the models in New York, Al Barber, national president of the National Association of Minority Contractors, says the construction industry finally recognizes the value of minority contractors participating in construction projects, and he points to several such initiatives across the country: "There are directives coming from owners of the companies hiring these larger firms requesting that the makeup of the workforce reflect that of the communities in which they do business."
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Title Annotation:DIVERSITY WATCH
Author:Simon, Mashaun D.
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Mar 1, 2007
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