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A program aimed at boosting government contracting relationships with minority- and women-owned businesses will now also include businesses owned by veterans, people with disabilities and people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, Gov. Charlie Baker announced Tuesday.
The move to include LGBT-owned businesses in contracting and procurement opportunities alongside those run by women and people of color, through the Supplier Diversity Office, is a first-in-the-nation effort, according to the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.
"The goal here is to provide a much higher quality product by opening up opportunities for others to play," Baker said while announcing the expansion. "We certainly know they can do the work, but they have been basically shut out because of a series of very complex and, in most cases, unnecessary barriers to participation."
The state will also raise its existing benchmarks for how much departments should spend with businesses owned by minorities and women, an increase Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus chairman Rep. Russell Holmes estimated will lead to an additional $30 million going to each category this year.
The benchmark for minority-owned businesses will rise to 7 percent, and the women-owned businesses benchmark will go up to 13 percent, both 1 percent increases. A benchmark for service-disabled veterans will remain at 3 percent, but will be broadened to include all veterans.
"When we allow these businesses to participate in the local marketplace, we are unlocking the commonwealth's potential to compete in the global economy," Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry said. "By expanding and improving our supplier diversity program, we are growing and building a more diverse, competitive and sustainable economy."
There are not yet benchmarks for LGBT-owned businesses and those owned by people with disabilities, but a goal of the supplier diversity program is to have those set in the next two to three years, according to a Baker spokesman.
"It's a growing process of engaging with those businesses, building a capacity that can lead to setting a benchmark for what that participation should be," said Billy Pitman, Baker's deputy communications director.
While state officials seek to gauge the size of the community of LGBT- and disability-owned businesses, those groups will be involved in other supplier diversity efforts, including a series of regional gatherings that join procurement representatives from state, municipal, and private organizations with small and diverse business owners.
Sarah Babineau, principal of the diversity and inclusion consulting firm Compass Metrics, said that recognizing people with disabilities as a diverse category can be a smart business decision. Babineau, who said she has gotten her business certified as woman-owned and plans to seek state certification as disability-owned, referenced statistics presented by U.S. Business Leadership Network showing around 15 percent of people with disabilities in the workforce are self-employed.
"We all know the statistics about how hard it is to run a business," she said. "People with disabilities are more likely to say, 'Well, I overcame this other obstacle, I know how to work with this. I can certainly run a business.' What CEO wouldn't want that person on their team? The way I'm looking at it is that Governor Baker, as sort of the CEO of Massachusetts has said, 'Hey, this is about profitability.' "
This article was originally published on November 03, 2015.
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