“Washington has been tremendously successful in creating new jobs in our state but we need to take another step forward,” Inslee said. “Washington’s diversity is one of its greatest economic and cultural strengths. Successful small businesses led by women, minorities and veterans help make our economy and our families more resilient. Our rate of finding these talented and qualified contractors must improve.”
Diverse businesses make up only about 1 percent of the $6.1 billion that the state spends annually with the private sector for good and services contracts and public works projects.
“The current rate is unacceptable,” Inslee said “We must do better.”
Small businesses are the backbone of the state economy – providing jobs for nearly 1.2 million workers, about half the state’s workforce. Improving recruitment of small and diverse businesses in state contracting is one of the goals the governor established as part of his Results Washington initiative.
State agencies have been working independently on individual solutions including a successful Get Certified campaign and other efforts to improve certification and outreach, but this approach has failed to address the overall problem. The new initiative brings together numerous state agencies as well as the small and diverse business community to find statewide solutions.
Inslee has tapped the Washington Department of Enterprise Services (DES) to lead the effort.
“We are working to achieve real and sustainable change – not just make recommendations,” DES Director Chris Liu said. “We have dedicated people throughout state government working on this, but by collaborating and bringing together their separate efforts, and by working closely with the small and diverse business community at the same time, we can significantly improve our ability to recruit and do business with these companies.”
Office of Minority & Women’s Business Enterprises Director Alexis Oliver agrees.
“We need a business diversity plan for the 21st century,” Oliver said. “There is an incredibly skilled and qualified talent pool among these women and minority owned businesses that we can connect with great business opportunities.”
Besides DES and OMWBE, state agencies involved in the effort include: the state departments of Corrections; Labor and Industries; Social and Health Services; Veterans Affairs; the Health Care Authority; the state commissions on African American Affairs, Asian Pacific American Affairs and Hispanic Affairs; and the state Attorney General’s and Governor’s offices. The state Department of Commerce also has a representative who serves as a liaison.
The subcabinet will identify causes of low participation among small and diverse businesses in state contracting and review all current state laws, policies and practices. The subcabinet will also look at current state requirements that may be creating barriers for small and diverse businesses and possible ways to address them.
More information is available on the Business Diversity Initiative web page.