Minority business commitment made in writing
Kerry L. Kirkland, Deputy Secretary of Diversity, Inclusion and Small Business Opportunities (Department of General Services) for Pennsylvania, seemed excited to sign the MWDBE Governmental Committee Pledge 2018. “To get the state, the county and local governments to jointly sign and make such a commitment is tremendous,” he said.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald also views the signing of the pledge important and significant to the region. “I am happy to sign the pledge and glad that the mayor has signed it.”
The pledge, presented during the MWDBE Governmental Committee’s 17th Annual Conference for Minority, Women and Disadvantaged Business Enterprises, March 1, binds state, county, local government and authorities of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to demonstrating their commitment to the establishment and administration of fair policies, practices and systems that ensure MWDBE firms have equal access to publicly funded contract opportunities.
The pledge reads: “That as representatives of state, county, local government authorities; we recognize the positive, economic impact MWDBE participation has on our contracting practices and small business community. Further, we acknowledge that meaningful inclusion has not only proven to be the right thing to do, it also provides tremendous benefits to our constituents and the local government. As representatives of state, county, local government and authorities; we abide by the law to ensure non-discrimination and we promote fair access and opportunities for all businesses to participate in a free enterprise system; we pledge our commitment to inclusion that will result in MWDBE firms receiving a fair share of the revenue generated through publicly funded contract opportunities. In support of this pledge, we encourage all public entities; commissions, school districts, universities, colleges, that have contracting opportunities; to join in our commitment to fair, measurable and inclusive MWDBE participation in all publicly contract opportunities.”
Kirkland provided the keynote address during the conference which carried the theme, “Leadership Sets the Tone: Compliance, Capabilities and Contracts.” A strong supporter and advocate of small businesses, he leads efforts to improve the state’s programs and the contracting environment for small and diverse businesses. During his more than 38 years of professional experience he has managed programs and has been responsible for maintaining measurable metrics inclusive of vendor performance, quality and financial risks. He has managed SBA’s national small business procurement programs as well as developed and implemented procurement/diverse spend policies and programs for many local governments, school districts, hospitals and private sector organizations with impactful outcomes.
Kirkland considers Arthur Allen Fletcher and former Maryland state Congressman Parren Mitchell as mentors, leaders in the fight for minority businesses. Describing their lives, he said Fletcher is considered the father of affirmative action and Mitchell the godfather of minority business development. He also credits Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf as having a commitment to minority and women businesses, relating to businesses within Pennsylvania. Kirkland mentioned that a comprehensive disparity study is being conducted to determine and/or prove that discrimination exists in the marketplace in order to advance specific programming for minority businesses. Kirkland also alluded to the kickoff for an upcoming mentoring program held in conjunction with Highmark Health.
Charlea Washington, Wage Compliance Manager for Lane Construction Corporation based in Connecticut, conducted a presentation titled “Capability and Compliance.” In a light and humorous manner, she pointed out the importance of entrepreneurs knowing who they are as a business, the significance of having a mission statement, a specialty and being certified. “Are you qualified and investing in your business?” she asked. “Certification does not mean you are qualified.”
Networking and getting to know people without being annoying are other key factors, she said. Her presentation outlined the three C’s of success as character, capability and credit. “Your moral qualities, abilities and financial status is all a part of you and your business.”
Involved with the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh for 12 years, Caster D. Binion brings more than two decades of experience in the field of housing and community development. He has been executive director of the HACP since 2013. For his strong commitment to the quest of improving the economic climate for historically underutilized business enterprises through the HACP MBEWBE participation, Binion was inducted into the 2018 MWDBE Governmental Committee Hall of Fame. He became the group’s 27th inductee.
The MWDBE Governmental Committee, celebrating 23 years, provides a forum for its 18 members to share contracting information and opportunities and acts as a sounding board for ideas to strengthen MWDBE polices, and serves as a resource for technical assistance and business development for the businesses.
Consisting of a group of city, state, county and federal governmental agency representatives, the MWDBE Governmental Committee’s mission is to create effective methods that strengthen economic opportunities for MWDBEs and to provide assistance enabling contractors and businesses to secure contracts in the goods and service, construction and professional services markets leading to profitability and growth for the businesses.
“It is wonderful to see so many dynamic MWDBE suppliers in the audience today and so many government representatives who stand ready to connect businesses with opportunity,” said Robert James, Supplier Diversity Program Manager for Highmark Health. He referenced participating MWBDEs as an engine of economic change and opportunity.
Highmark Health, along with the Allegheny Regional Asset District, Allegheny Health Network, and Rivers Casino, were diamond sponsors for the conference.
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