As of this summer, all SUNY schools are now required to screen major purchases to make sure that minority- and women-owned businesses had an equal opportunity bid for the contract.
The policy, implemented across all New York state agencies, requires that purchases over $25,000 be subject to a detailed procurement process to determine if any certified minority- and women-owned business enterprises (MWBE) could be used.
Procurements above the $25,000 mark, including all kinds of commodities, services and construction contracting, must give opportunities to MWBEs to bid and negotiate on state sales. Only MWBE firms certified by the Empire State Development Corporation may be used to fulfill the new policy.
According to John J. Cordi, associate vice president of business affairs at Binghamton University, the goal is to give equal opportunity to MWBEs.
“Basically, the governor’s initiative in New York is to make aware of procurement opportunities, to make sure there was notice and consideration for minority- and women-owned businesses to bid on state contracts,” Cordi said.
Cordi said the initiative shouldn’t add any additional costs, but large orders may take longer to acquire because of the policy process. Matthew Schofield, director of procurement at BU, said that such purchasing orders might take more time due to the analysis of MWBEs and state formalities.
”If it’s over $25,000 and it’s possible that a portion can be subcontracted out, we have to do some research,” Schofield said.
If there is no way to use or subcontract out to an MWBE, then a report must be filed with SUNY Central Administration and Empire State Development Department letting the campus buy from a non-MWBE.
“It can take up to 30 days,” Schofield said. “To make sure we’re not circumventing the system.”
The purchasing policy also mandates that the president of each SUNY campus appoint an MWBE program coordinator. According to Schofield, BU was the first to appoint a program coordinator and is the only campus that has two of them. Responsibilities include conducting a vendor and spending analysis to determine if such purchase goals are feasible.
Bill Panko is one of the program coordinators and the director of specialty procurement. He supervises commodities and services MWBEs as well as community outreach efforts.
“Bill has done a lot of outreach, vocally in New York state,” Cordi said. “He’s helped vendors become New York state certified and is making the campus community aware of requirements.”
Rachel Talcott, the other program coordinator, works more with construction companies as the construction procurement and contract manager. According to Schofield, her position requires specialized knowledge of her field, and because of that she has helped meet the initiative’s goals because a majority of the money is derived from construction contracting.
“The big win is on construction,” Schofield said. “Most of this stuff we pay general contractors and subcontract out quite a bit of work. We reach goals through contracting.”
Although according to Schofield his office is trying to reach out to any local MWBEs, only 2 percent of New York’s Southern Tier businesses qualify as such. The policy is aimed at increasing New York’s overall MWBE participation.
“Before we implemented this, MWBE participation was from 5 to 6 percent. Now we are well over 25, close to 30 percent,” Cordi said of BU’s purchases.
According to Schofield, SUNY’s goals are only 21 percent, putting Binghamton well above the target.
“We’re trying to stay ahead of the other SUNY’s,” Schofield said. “It’s an effort but if we can do it, we can do it.”