HARRISBURG, Pa. (Erie News Now) — Since taking office in 2015, the Wolf Administration says it has spent over $4.5 billion in state contracts with small, diverse, and veteran businesses across Pennsylvania. Fiscal Year 2021 saw a record in that spending, just shy of $1 billion.
“I have always made it a top priority to support Pennsylvania’s small, small diverse and veteran businesses,” said Governor Tom Wolf. “I’m proud of how much we’ve accomplished and the positive effect we have had on small businesses across the commonwealth. From the outset, we wanted to make the state contracting process more inclusive, equitable and fair for small businesses. Over the last seven years, we’ve put our money where our mouth is with multiple record-setting spending years. This is about building an economy that works for everyone – including the small businesses that power our communities,” he added.
In 2015, Gov. Wolf signed an executive order creating the Bureau of Diversity Inclusion in Small Business Opportunities (BDISBO) within the Department of General Services (DGS). The order also opened the door to more contracting opportunities for these businesses throughout agencies under the governor’s jurisdiction.
“Since 2015, BDISBO has been on the forefront of the commonwealth’s efforts to implement policies and programs to help our small, small diverse and veteran owned businesses excel in the state contracting system and Pennsylvania’s overall economy,” said DGS Acting Secretary Joe Lee.
This week, Lee also announced the release of the 2022 Annual Bureau of Diversity, Inclusion and Small Business Opportunities Report.
Prior to the executive order, state contract spending with small, diverse and veteran owned businesses was subpar.
“To put it honestly, our numbers were just embarrassing to not only the commonwealth, but the rest of the nation,” said DGS Deputy Secretary for Diversity Inclusion and Small Business Opportunities Kerry Kirkland, adding that small, diverse businesses have an immeasurable value to the community. “There are some things that you just can’t measure, and that’s the value that they bring and add to the quality of life to communities and neighborhoods all over the commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Kirkland added.
Fast forward to this week, and officials say small, veteran and diverse businesses – which include those owned by minorities, women, individuals with disabilities and members of the LGBT community – most recently benefited from $955 million in contract spending for FY 2021, which created 10,000 jobs according to the administration. The $955 million in state contracts came at a significant time for many businesses, but especially for Black-owned businesses.
“During the COVID-19 Pandemic, over 41 percent of Black-owned businesses had to shut their doors nationwide,” said Kirkland.
Business owners like Phoebe Coles say the contracts lift diverse communities all across Pennsylvania.
“When you hire diverse businesses, you are hiring communities,” said Coles, the CEO of Community Marketing Concepts in Philadelphia.
Coles hopes the work continues with a new administration on the way.
“I really just hope that this particular project is a springboard for the next administration,” said Coles.