MTA Small Business Mentoring Program Surpasses $500M In Awards To MWBEs

Published on September 27, 2021, 11:38 pm
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Governor Kathy Hochul today announced that the MTA’s nationally celebrated program to mentor local minority-owned, women-owned and disadvantaged businesses (MWBE) has helped participating companies win a total of $500 million in MTA contracts since the state’s program was founded in 2010.

A $2 million contract to Alliance Tri-State Construction, Inc., of Staten Island was the decisive award that put the total over the half billion mark. It is the 485th contract to be awarded to a participating business since the start of the program. MTA Chief Diversity Officer Michael Garner and his team, working closely with MTA Construction & Development and the MTA’s Office of Construction Oversight, have led the Authority to an unprecedented pace of activity in recent years, with hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts awarded.

“New York is a national leader when it comes to working with MWBEs to help ensure that talented business leaders from across our state can bring their unique and valuable perspectives into our projects,” Governor Hochul said. “Our diversity is our strength, and by utilizing the special skills of women and people of color in what we do, we are making our economy more inclusive and more robust. I am more committed than ever to leveling the playing field so that women- and minority-owned businesses have increased access to State contracts, and I commend the MTA for taking a leading role in breaking down the barriers these entrepreneurs face. As the metropolitan region’s premier public transportation provider, the MTA services a remarkably diverse ridership, and what better way to fully realize the needs of these riders than to make sure the contractors also reflect this diversity.”

“Growing the pool of firms we work with is not only the right thing to do from a social justice perspective, it simply makes good business sense because it means increased competition in our procurement process,” said Acting MTA Chair & CEO Janno Lieber. “The Small Business Mentoring Program is a model for state agencies and local governments across the nation and I’m certain it will only grow more successful in the years to come as we work with new firms to modernize mass transit in the region.”

“Today is an exciting day,” said MTA Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer Michael Garner. “We have worked relentlessly to grow the share of contracts we award and we are immensely proud to have now awarded in excess of a half a billion dollars to hundreds of first-rate firms around the region. We will continue to grow our pool of eligible businesses, because a more equitable approach to awarding contracts is a win not only for the MTA but for the entire regional economy. Additionally, as we invest in the region’s infrastructure, we are also investing in a diverse pool of qualified businesses as a strategy of creating jobs within those often-excluded communities. Access to government contracts equals job creation, homeownership, better educational opportunities and healthcare options.”

To celebrate the milestone accomplishment, Garner was joined by two awardees at a news conference today. Yolanda Valdes from Empower Contracting and Hely Duarte of Zion Contracting spoke about the impact the program has had on their businesses over the years.

“We started in the program back in 2011. Back then, we were a small painting company with a lot of dreams to become a general contractor. The problem was, we didn’t have the resource,” said Hely Duarte, Owner and President, Zion Contracting. “Little did I know that soon, we would find the Small Business Mentoring Program that opened the door to one of the biggest agencies in New York. We received our first MTA contract three months after we joined the program. Six months after that, we doubled our revenue, and at the end of the year we were doing four times our previous year’s revenue. And that was all with the help of the Small Business Mentoring Program.”

“Without the opportunities here our company would not be able to grow and learn the way we have with the backbone of the MTA and the TDX support system,” said Yolanda Valdes, Owner, Empower Contracting, Inc. “We have been able to compete in an otherwise unavailable market to us as a small business. We don’t have the opportunities to do the big contracts especially with the MTA, so that was a great opportunity for us.”

The MTA’s Department of Diversity and Civil Rights aggressively promotes and recruits MWBE companies, and those owned by service-disabled veterans, at events and forums around the region. It works with the community of providers to ensure that prospective businesses understand how to do business with the Authority and are aware of all requirements. Garner’s team also provides continued guidance and support once contracts are awarded to ensure that work is successfully completed. The success is focused on integrating New York State-certified MWBE companies into the MTA’s procurements.

In recent years, the MTA has enhanced its Discretionary Procurement Program, which allows the Authority to conduct targeted, faster, more nimble contracting opportunities to the MWBE community. The MTA now accepts contract bids of up to $1 million through this program, up from the previous $400,000 cap, a critical step to increasing diversity in the contracting process and making it the highest discretionary threshold in the State.  The Authority worked closely with the New York State Legislature to employ this strategy in an effort to increase the MTA’s contract awards directly with eligible State-certified companies in a range of professional services. Just in the area of information technology, the MTA’s Discretionary Procurement Program has issued 843 purchase orders to MWBE’s totaling $136.9 million dollars.

To be eligible for certification, a firm must be a small business that is at least 51 percent owned, operated, and controlled by minority group members and/or women. Firms must be authorized to do business in the state of New York.

For more information about the MTA’s Small Business Mentoring Program, please visit this web page:


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