Ryan J. Foley
Madison — For the first time in its 25-year history, state agencies have met a goal of giving at least 5 percent of their business to minority-owned firms, Gov. Jim Doyle said Monday.
Doyle released a report showing 5.87 percent out of $1.6 billion spent on state contracts and procurement went to firms in the Minority Business Enterprise program in 2008.
It is the first time since state lawmakers in 1983 set the 5 percent goal that it has been met. The nearly $95 million in spending also marks the most money for the program in one year and was a 52 percent increase from the previous year.
Administration Secretary Michael Morgan called the news “a significant milestone.”
Spending that went to minority firms increased drastically for state building, highway and bridge construction projects and for architectural and engineering services, according to the Department of Administration report. Fourteen agencies met or exceeded the 5 percent goal, the report said.
More than 1,200 businesses are certified to take part in the program, giving them an edge in seeking state business. The law gives agencies the power to accept bids from the companies even if their proposals cost up to 5 percent more than a competitor’s.
Doyle had proposed making it easier for companies to qualify by lowering the required minority ownership from 51 percent to 30 percent. His aides say the change would only affect a handful of companies a year and would be meant to help minority companies grow by accessing venture capital from non-minorities without becoming ineligible for the program.
The Legislature’s budget committee earlier this month removed the provision from the state budget. A coalition of minority business groups said they worried it would put their members’ companies at a competitive disadvantage.
Doyle on Monday accepted recommendations from an advisory commission he created in 2006 to help the state meet the goal. The commission, co-chaired by Sen. Spencer Coggs and Milwaukee Urban League President Ralph Hollmon, recommended several steps to improve oversight of the program and accountability for meeting the goals.
Morgan pledged to work with the group to improve the program.
“We will continue to push for better and more effective ways to open access to minority-owned businesses,” according to information attributed to Morgan in a letter to Doyle.
Coggs said his goal is to meet or exceed the goal again this year and in the future.
“We want to build this into the infrastructure of the state,” he said.