Because the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania uses two main, yet differing methods to award contracts, it doesn’t have an entirely accurate picture of how many Black-owned, women-owned or veteran-owned firms it’s doing business with, since only one method calls for bidders to specify a “diversity component.”
The question is, how can you increase something—as Gov. Tom Wolf wants to do with contracts to small and minority businesses—if you don’t know where you’re starting?
In February, Wolf appointed Kerry Kirkland as deputy secretary for the Department of General Services to address this and make meaningful increases in contracting for Blacks and other minorities.
Most recently, Kirkland was the Central Regional Director for the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, where they revitalized central business districts, urban neighborhoods and rural communities in 24 central Pennsylvania counties. On April 5, Kirkland spoke exclusively with the New Pittsburgh Courier about DGS’s Small Diverse Business and Veteran Small Business Annual Report for 2015-2016 and increasing the state’s minority contracting.
The report showed that payments to small businesses and small diverse businesses totaled $354 million, or 8 percent of the total $4.6 billion spent by the state on goods, services and construction. Kirkland said Wolf wants to increase that to 30 percent, and he is moving to do so.
“The first thing we’re doing is issuing more RFPs (Request For Proposal) and fewer IFBs (Invitation For Bids). IFBs, or sealed bids, don’t have a small business requirement, let alone a minority small business requirement. They are simply based on the lowest price,” Kirkland said. “RFPs allow for more complex scoring—technical capability, cost and diversity can all be used. Small and minority small businesses get a much better deal with the RFP process.”