Pennsylvania needs equal business opportunities for all

Pennsylvania is failing in its mission to foster growth in minority and women-owned businesses. A 2016 state report found businesses owned by minorities, women and veterans, known as Small Diverse Businesses, are struggling to successfully compete and receive government contracts.  

Out of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, 11 lack even a single certified SDB. Breaking down this data paints an even more dire picture for underrepresented groups – out of the total number of Small Diverse Businesses registered, only 30 percent are minority-owned, and only 8 percent are minority women-owned. This is unacceptable. Providing these groups with the resources and opportunities needed to foster small business creation is the key to increasing economic mobility and prosperity for all of us.

In 2015, Gov. Wolf issued an executive order that called for increased diversity, inclusion, and small business opportunities in procurement. Despite the order, Pennsylvania has yet to act upon this and reform its procurement system.  

I have introduced House Bill 1167, which would help bring more opportunities and transparency to the commonwealth’s procurement process. This bill would provide minority and women-owned businesses with the tools needed to work successfully with the commonwealth, and with resources to assist in the application for procurement opportunities. My legislation would require annual reports to the General Assembly detailing the number and nature of procurement contracts awarded to women and minority-owned businesses.

Growing a successful business in Philadelphia and in Pennsylvania should not be a matter of luck or having special contacts and information. I want to ensure a fair and equitable process in awarding government contracts.

As diverse as Pennsylvania is, it is inexcusable that more than 16 percent of counties currently have no verified Small Diverse Business vendors. When a contract is awarded to the nearly 30 percent of Small Diverse Businesses that claim out-of-state headquarters, money is being funneled away from hardworking Pennsylvanians and into the pockets of people who are not personally investing in creating better communities in our commonwealth. We need to put money in our own neighborhoods to help create positive economic growth and change.

In today’s turbulent political and socioeconomic climate, the need to make change happen quickly and swiftly cannot be oversold.