County Executive, County Legislature Formalize their Commitment to Increase Participation of Minority, Women and Veteran Owned Businesses


Legislature Codifies Longstanding County Policy

Mandated participation for Minority and Women-Owned Business, Veterans included

The Upstate Minority Economic Alliance (UMEA) and Elected Officials Applaud legislature’s Action

Syracuse, NY – County Executive Joanie Mahoney thanked the Onondaga County Legislature for recognizing the importance of increasing opportunities for Minority and Women Owned Businesses and the success of her award winning program. The legislation passed today not only affirms longstanding County policy, but also adds Veteran owned and Service Disabled Veteran owned businesses to the program. Click Here to read the legislation.

County Executive Joanie Mahoney said, “We have been firmly committed to leveling the playing field and increasing opportunities for minority and women owned businesses. When everyone has a fair shot, our entire community benefits. This new legislation will provide us with additional tools to offer opportunities to a more diverse group of vendors who reflect our county’s population including the welcomed addition of Veteran owned and Service Disabled Veteran owned businesses to our award winning program.”

County Legislator Linda Ervin

According to Onondaga County Legislator Linda Ervin, “The victory was result of determination, perseverance and teamwork. Being active in the community for years, I have seen times when we were not giving minority and women owned businesses the opportunities needed and I have been determined to help. I’m thankful that I had the possibility to make a difference in my position.

My colleague Monica Williams and I shared the concern and made it a point of negotiation with Chairman McMahon and County Executive Mahoney over the years. To their credit, they shared our concern. Chairman McMahon worked with us to craft the final version of the resolution. We had great support from community members and minority business owners.  We had input from other elected officials here on city and state level.

This resolution opens doors for minority owned, women owned and also added a veteran component.  This will encourage development of more businesses, enhance existing businesses, increase job force development, create jobs and ultimately benefit the economy. The fight for what’s right isn’t always successful so we are certainly thankful for the unanimous support in the final vote yesterday.”

UMEA President, Edward Cuello said, “The Upstate Minority Economic Alliance (UMEA) supports the recent passage of legislation by the Onondaga County Legislature to formally establish an MWBE program, something that has been an informal practice for many years.

The county’s choice to do its own disparity study is also prudent but the idea, proposed by some, to shelve the program while waiting for the outcome flies in the face of both reality and common sense.

Our region is home to the highest concentrations of African American and Latino poverty in the US, poverty which is exacerbated by extremely high levels of segregation.  These realities mean that our communities have not been given an equal opportunity to compete.  And what we see time and time again is that when economies are closed to competition, they stagnate.  We applaud the unanimous vote of the Onondaga County Legislature to bring more competition and growth to our region.”

Under the leadership of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York State has made MWBE participation a cornerstone of creating opportunity for New York State Minority and Women Owned Enterprises.  Goals for New York State funded projects have increased to 30%. With this legislation, Onondaga County has matched that goal of 30 % as follows:

Section 2. Utilization Goals. 

Utilization goals shall be incorporated into all County contracts in excess of $20,000 for goods or services.

Certified M/WBEs will be utilized in the performance of contracts at the combined total of on or about 30% of the total dollar value of the work awarded, and of such combined total, on or about 18% of the total dollar value is to be paid to certified Minority Business Enterprises (“MBEs”) and on or about 12% is to be paid to certified Women Business Enterprises (“WBEs”).

Section 3. Workforce Goals. 

Workforce goals shall be incorporated into all County contracts in excess of $20,000 for goods or services.

For each contract awarded, the contractor will demonstrate that minorities and women participate in the contractor’s workforce performing the contract at the combined total of on or about 30% of the total workforce hours utilized, and of such combined total, at least on or about18% of the workforce is to be comprised of minorities, and at least on or about 12% of the workforce is to be comprised of women.

Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Businesses (“SDVOBs”);

WHEREAS, the government actions of setting such goals and implementing programs to achieve them have proven to improve business and employment opportunities for minorities and women within the local economy, and it is desired to expand the program to include goals for utilizing Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Businesses (“SDVOBs”);

Onondaga County, by creating this local legislation will increase the opportunities available to Minority, Veteran and Woman Owned Businesses. For the first time, the City of Syracuse, Onondaga County and New York State are all on the same page when it comes to providing opportunities for inclusion.

History of Local MWBE Legislation:  Mayor Tom Young, George A. Kilpatrick and the Office of Minority Affairs

The Increasing Opportunities for Participation within Onondaga County’s Systems of Procurement and Contracts for Certain Underrepresented Populations  legislation is a 30 year long “overnight success” for Minority and Woman owned Businesses, especially in construction, until this new law, there were no county level enforceable rules mandating participation on locally funded projects. However, Onondaga County still had to comply with State and Federal MWBE participation requirements.

By 1989, the City of Syracuse had established MWBE Legislation, revised after the City of Richmond v. J. A. Croson Co. decision by the Supreme Court that struck down the city’s ordinance because they hadn’t proven the existence of a “pattern of discrimination”.  In their decision, the court said that there has to be a proven record of “disparity” to justify the existence of this law. In order for municipalities to maintain these programs, a study of disparities between minority and women businesses was now required. The case involving the City of Richmond v. J. A. Croson Co. established the standard acceptable legislative measures were set by the Supreme Court in 1989.

Then Mayor Tom Young took the unprecedented step of getting the Syracuse Common Council to authorize a Disparity Study. Working with the Office of Minority Affairs led by George A. Kilpatrick, the city provided the firm KSR access to all monitored contracts. They compared those numbers to Onondaga County projects that had no requirements. The results were clear, if there was minority and woman owned business participation contractually required, there was a pattern of inclusion. They also studied Onondaga County files and determined, once you take away the rule of law, contractual obligation, MWBE participation plummeted in many cases to zero.

Commitment from the Onondaga County Executive

Onondaga County Executive, Joanie Mahoney

With the election of Joanie Mahoney as Onondaga County Executive there was a noticeable shift in policy, not only did the county encourage MWBE participation on state and federally funded projects. The county made good faith efforts to increase participation on those projects which weren’t contractually bound by local law or funding source requirement. The Onondaga County Legislature codified longstanding county policy. With the approval of this legislation, that policy now has has teeth.

“We live in a diverse community and the workforce and opportunities available should reflect that. This legislation will help improve and rectify some of the long-standing barriers that have prevented the many qualified, ready and able minority, women and veteran owned businesses from fairly competing for County contracts….We are all in this together,” said Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney.

Cover photo: Bellevue Trunk pipe being placed under Onondaga Creek during the construction of the Midland Regional Treatment Facility. Onondaga Lake Cleanup project.