Forum: MWBEs soaring across New York State

Owning it: Female business owners (like Buncee CEO Marie Arturi) are doing great in New York, with certified Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprises holding more state contracts than ever.

More minority- and women-owned businesses have deals with New York State than ever before, state officials announced Thursday.

The utilization rate for certified Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises participating in state contracts increased to 25 percent in New York’s 2015-16 fiscal year – the highest percentage ever recorded – with MWBEs securing approximately $2 billion in new state deals.

Lauding the high percentage of MWBEs among the companies currently holding state contracts, Gov. Andrew Cuomo noted New York “leads the nation in growing opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses,” while Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said she was “very proud” of Albany’s support of female and minority business owners.

“As I travel across the state, I convene small women- and minority-owned businesses to help identify their barriers to success,” Hochul said in a statement. “We have played a major role in helping businesses by setting a high bar and achieving $2 billion in state contracts annually.”

Cuomo announced the lofty numbers, and trumpeted the launch of a new Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprises Mentor-Protégé Program, at Albany’s 2016 New York State MWBE Forum, subtitled “Transformation 2016.”

Featuring a record-breaking total of more than 2,200 registered businesses, entrepreneurs and government officials, the two-day forum – New York’s largest annual business event, according to the governor’s office – is designed to inform female and minority entrepreneurs of the best routes to winning state contracts, primarily by highlighting the smartest strategies and best available resources.

The state hosts several programs designed to assist MWBEs, many introduced under Cuomo’s watch. Among them is the Bridge to Success loan program, which the governor launched in 2014 to invest at least $20 million to expand access to short-term bridge loans for state-certified MWBEs, primarily to help those firms access state contracts.

To date, the Bridge to Success program has made 83 loans totaling over $13 million – and those loans have led to more than $100 million in state contracts, according to the governor’s office.

In 2015, the governor introduced a $2 million MWBE Investment Fund to support innovation and job creation throughout the state, primarily by encouraging diversity in the private sector. So far, the fund – managed by Rochester-based venture capital firm Excell Partners – has invested in two companies, both based in Rochester.

Now add the Mentor-Protégé Program to Cuomo’s MWBE résumé. The first-of-its-kind statewide effort, administered by Empire State Development’s Division of Minority and Women Business Development, aims to “facilitate long-term relationships between MWBEs and prime contractors,” according to the governor’s office, with the goal of positioning MWBE protégés “to take on ever-expanding roles in areas of state contracting where MWBEs are historically underrepresented.”

Information on registering with the state as a certified MWBE is available here.