The state recently announced initiatives aimed at ensuring minority-, women-, and veteran-owned businesses (MWVOB) can more fully participate in New Jersey’s multi-billion–dollar supply chain.
The Department of Treasury has commissioned the first disparity study in nearly 20 years to measure spend data, which it views as key to opening new opportunities for MWVOBs to contract with the state to provide goods and services. The state has also hired a diversity portfolio manager and adopted new regulations to help MWVOBs seeking state contracts.
Gov. Phil Murphy said the study was an integral part of the state’s efforts to open doors for diverse businesses and help build a more resilient post-COVID economy.
“This study will provide us with an opportunity to create a more equitable business environment, which is a win for us all,” Murphy said. The study will be conducted by Mason Tillman Associates, LTD, and overseen by the state Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
The goal is to research, structure, and conduct a comprehensive and legally defensible disparity study of the State’s contract awards in construction, goods, and services over a five-year period from July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2020. The study will determine whether there is a disparity between the number of qualified minority–, women–, and veteran-owned businesses ready, willing, and able to perform services, and the number of vendors/contractors actually hired.
The Disparity Study will include a review of contracts for construction, goods, commodities, and services and shall be appropriately structured so that the state may, if appropriate, use the information to fashion race- and/or gender-neutral, and if necessary, race- and gender-conscious methods of achieving those goals for state contracts and employment by state vendors.
“Recognizing how long it has been since the last study was conducted, we tried to ensure that this new study will capture as much data as possible, beyond just statistics that are available on our spend, but also including outreach to stakeholders and community groups as well,” said state Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio.
“This will give us the tools and the information necessary to determine where our strengths and weaknesses lie so we can implement more equitable procurement strategies moving forward,” Muoio said. “The state has a vast supply chain of goods, commodities, and professional and financial services and in a truly equitable society every qualified vendor in our state should have the opportunity to participate in the economy fueled by their tax dollars.”
Muoio also announced Monday that Edward Ramos has been hired for the newly created position of Diversity Portfolio Manager within the Division of Investment (DOI). Ramos will be an integral part of DOI’s ongoing efforts to identify a wider universe of diverse investment fund managers, brokers, consultants, and advisers to help manage the State’s roughly $80 billion pension fund.
DOI has demonstrated a commitment to increasing opportunities for MWBEs. Since January of 2018, $1.4 billion of $4.4 billion in new capital has been committed to MWBE (Minority and Women Business Enterprises) fund managers, representing 31% of all newly committed capital. By comparison, from 2013 to 2017, $1.23 billion – or 7.25% – in new capital was committed to MWBE fund managers.
Ramos holds both an MBA and CFA and has over 25 years of experience investing in over 50 different countries where he has a demonstrated track record of success and a long history with public pension plan clients. His experience includes working at the first African American firm that handled international equity, building and leading emerging teams, and managing money for many MWBE Funds of Funds.
Additionally, Treasury recently adopted new MWBE regulations that create a more business-friendly process for MWBE certification. The regulations are designed to streamline the procedures to become certified by: allowing for provisional certification, which is particularly helpful to companies in their infancy who may not have all the requisite documentation available just yet; creating an elongated three–year certification period rather than requiring yearly recertification; establishing reciprocity with other certification entities, most importantly the federal Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE); and establishing a clear–cut process for applicants to challenge a certification denial.
The overhauled regulations were officially published in the New Jersey Register on Dec. 21.
Any business looking to be certified as a small-, minority-, women-, veteran-, or disabled veteran-owned business should visit the Department of the Treasury’s online portal to get started on the application. Businesses can now become certified in more than one category for just one single fee.
Any business looking to be notified about state procurement opportunities for goods and services should register their company with NJSTART, the State’s eProcurement system, at www.njstart.gov.