New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is amping up his commitment to the city’s women- and minority-owned businesses.
In an exclusive interview with "Morning Joe" co-host and Know Your Value founder Mika Brzezinski, de Blasio announced that the city is raising its goal for contracts awarded to businesses owned by women and minorities by $5 billion dollars. This new investment brings the city’s total 10-year target to $25 billion by 2025.
"If we're going to be serious about creating opportunity for women, we have to put our money where our mouth is," de Blasio told Brzezinski. This is the second time the Mayor’s office has upped its goal: The initiative launched with a target of $16 billion by 2025, then was raised to $20 billion last year. According to the mayor’s office, the city has already awarded more than $13 billion in contracts to women- and minority-owned businesses since 2015, putting it more than $3 billion ahead of schedule. De Blasio said that prompted his administration to push for a more ambitious target.
“The fact is, you have to set a clear mandate, [and] you have to put real money behind it,” de Blasio said. “And then you have to make it accessible to people.” The city is on track to award 30 percent of mayoral contracts to women- and minority-owned businesses by 2021, having doled out a quarter of such contracts — totaling $3.8 billion — to diverse business owners during the 2019 fiscal year.
De Blasio told Brzezinski that when it comes to awarding government contracts, women and people of color have "been boxed out [of the process] historically.” To remedy that, his administration has been focusing on certifying more women- and minority-owned businesses — a prerequisite for eligibility. The mayor’s office said that the city recently reached its goal of certifying 9,000 women- and minority-owned businesses in June.
“We found over the years, you know, there's been a lot of lip service paid to the empowerment of women and people of color, but then when it came to actually giving the contracts, mysteriously, not much moved,” de Blasio said. “This has been a boys club.”
Business owner Elizabeth Velez is breaking through that boys club. As president of the Velez Organization, she runs a multi-service construction company in the city. Started by her father with two employees, Velez now services multiple major contracts and has 56 employees. She puts her twenty-plus years of experience and her MBA to use in the community by serving on the Mayor’s Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise (M/WBE) Advisory Board, the board of a mentoring program in New York City, and as a member of the National Hispanic Business Group. She makes a point of hiring local workers for her construction company.
“There are so many real and perceived obstacles for any business, but especially women owned businesses, especially in construction, and especially in the hardscrabble environment like New York City,” Velez said. “The fact is, is the doors are open now more than ever before.”
Velez pointed out giving opportunities to more business owners can lift up everyone who works in the industry. “It increases competition,” she noted.
"This is an example where government had to step in and rewrite the rules because the game was kind of rigged," de Blasio said. "And now by getting so many more women owned businesses to be at the starting line and qualify for those contracts, what are we finding? A huge amount of talent and ability that's finally getting a chance to shine and businesses that get to grow."