As part of the information gathering phase of its historic state-wide disparity study to determine the level to which minority-owned small businesses have been discriminated against in state contracting, the Department of General Services held its next-to-last public hearing at the United Steelworkers Building in Pittsburgh on Jan. 30.
Spokesman Troy Thompson said the department was pleased with the turnout.
“It went very well,” he said. “We were pleased with the response. Events like this will be a determining factor in the information gathering portion of the study.”
“We know there are factors that prevent our small diverse businesses from being able to compete, and this study will provide us with hard data to allow us to get to the root of the problems…”Curt Topper, Department of General Services Secretary, echoed those sentiments.
Deputy Secretary for the Department of General Services
“The public hearings give small and small diverse businesses the opportunity to be part of the change that is going on here in Pennsylvania,” he said. “Their thoughts, concerns and feedback will be valuable to helping the commonwealth shape a more diverse, inclusive and fair state contracting climate.”
Over the course of the three-hour session, small and minority-owned businesses presented written and/or verbal testimony to the department, documenting their experiences with state contracting.
County Councilman DeWitt Walton, who is also the assistant to the president of the International United Steel Workers Union and vice president of the Pittsburgh A. Phillip Randolph Institute, helped plan the event.
He said having to change the time and move the venue from the Allegheny County Courthouse did affect the turnout, but while it wasn’t poor, it was not as large as he’d hoped.
“It’s clear there are challenges that must be met in terms of how and where state contracting dollars are spent. This is a sincere effort to address that and build a process where more people can effectively compete for those dollars,” he said. “But challenges bring opportunities. It just becomes a case of addressing them in a constructive manner.”
In all, 51 individuals either spoke or provided testimony to the department. Their testimony will become part of the $900,000 state-wide study Gov. Tom Wolf commissioned last year, which was later expanded to include all PennDOT contracting, as well.
Deputy Secretary for the Department of General Services Kerry Kirkland said he expects the first draft to be complete by June.
“We need to do a better job when it comes to delivering policies and programs that will enable our small diverse businesses to get a fair shot at doing business with the commonwealth,” he said.
“We know there are factors that prevent our small diverse businesses from being able to compete, and this study will provide us with hard data to allow us to get to the root of the problems and move forward in the right direction.”
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