Governor Phil Murphy and Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio announced the release of a comprehensive statewide disparity study on public contracting opportunities for Minority and Women-Owned (MWBE) businesses. The study conducted by Mason Tillman and Associates (MTA) reviewed procurement data over five years and found disparities in awarding public contracts to minority-owned and women-owned businesses in goods and services, professional services, and construction sectors. The study, commissioned in 2020, aims to assess MWBE participation in the state’s contracting universe and identify the need for additional programs to create a more equitable business environment in New Jersey. 

Key findings from the study include statistically significant disparities in contracting with Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs) and Woman Business Enterprises (WBEs) for various types of contracts. For example, minority-owned businesses represented a significant portion of available construction goods, and services businesses but received a smaller percentage of dollars on prime contracts. Similar disparities were found for woman-owned businesses in professional services. The study also identified statistically significant overutilization of businesses owned by non-minority males. 

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion within the Department of the Treasury oversaw the study, reviewing over 1.2 million records and 240,000 contracts from over 60 contracting agencies, authorities, commissions, state colleges, and universities. The study involved community outreach, virtual business community meetings, and collaboration with business organizations to ensure diverse perspectives. 

The report highlights disparities and presents an anecdotal analysis of obstacles faced by small business enterprises and serviced-disabled veteran-owned businesses seeking to contract with state agencies. The study provides a foundation for additional initiatives to address disparities in state contracting, with the administration expressing its commitment to working with lawmakers and the business community. 

Various legislators and business organizations have acknowledged the historical disparities outlined in the study and expressed the need for equitable opportunities for MWBEs in state procurement. The completion of the study is seen as a crucial step in achieving the state’s goal of addressing disparities in public contracting and promoting diversity in procurement practices.

The proof is in the pudding- now is the perfect and necessary time for Bill 5693 to become law. It will be interesting to see if other states follow suit- both in the reporting of MWBEs and in promoting MWBEs.  

By Michelle