In June 2018, when the New York State legislative session ended with only a one-year extender of Article 15-A, legislation that created the New York State Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprises (MWBE) program, it left certified firms, public and private sectors decision makers and organizations like the Women Builders Council (WBC) wondering, what’s next?
Fast-forward to January 2019 – with a newly elected democratic majority in the State Senate, advocates and supporters of New York State MWBE Program were looking forward to not only a five-year extender of the program, but expanded provisions as well. As the legislative session progressed, a group of women, including small business owners, attorneys and executives began with a mission of building consensus – working with certified firms, general contractors, non-profit industry associations as well as the agencies and authorities they did business with. The main objective – to extend and improve the NYS MWBE Program, to grow small businesses and create a level playing field in State contracting.
“WBC has always been known for our advocacy and public policy outreach,” said Stephanie Burns, President of the Women Builders Council (WBC) and Vice President of Community and Citizenship at Turner Construction. “Our Board Members spent hours reviewing draft legislation, compiling data and taking the trips up to Albany to meet with Legislators and representatives from the Governor’s office. We are a solutions-oriented organization, and I’m incredibly proud of our ability to spark real change throughout the construction industry?”
Building Industry Consensus
WBC was created with the mission of increasing diversity and the role of women in the construction industry. Founded in 2004, WBC has become the leading association for women in the building industries. From certified MWBEs to women executives at major construction firms, WBC is committed to leveling the playing field for women in the construction, architecture, engineering and related professional services firm, while creating increased opportunities for certified
“What sets WBC apart from other organizations during the Article 15-A negotiations, was our ability to bring together every significant participant on a project,” said Lorraine D’Angelo, WBC’s Senior Policy Advisor and President of LDA Compliance Consulting, Inc., “From the investors to the designers, owners, general contractors, subcontractors and certified firms, our board members represented the full spectrum of the construction industry.”
For two years, WBC utilized their relationships and positions on other industry boards to create a working group and build consensus. WBC’s Public Policy Committee, chaired by Citnalta’s Vice President and General Counsel, Jayne Czik, worked in partnership with the certified small business community, industry associations and elected officials to provide feedback and tangible solutions to the concerns raised regarding the Reauthorization of Article 15-A. As the legislative process progressed, WBC was active and diligent in making sure that the implementation of new rules would benefit all members of the construction industry.
Special Industry-Wide MWBE Study Group
WBC’s Public Policy Committee got into the nitty gritty of policy by participating in an intensive multi-week Study Group that included hours of calls on a variety of topics related the program with other industry professionals as well as representatives from the NYS Senate and Assembly. Many of the suggestions from the Study Group were incorporated into the new Article15-A, with the goal of enhancing the program. Both the Assembly and the Senate and the MWBE Leadership from both houses provided an open environment to review issues and concerns from MWBEs, primes and other industry professionals.
“It was important to bring together the various organizations that were going to be impacted by this legislation,” said Czik. “We wanted to have an honest and direct conversation about the importance of extending the program, and the ways in which its extension could create positive change throughout
A Game Changing Legislative Breakfast
Utilizing their more personal, hands-on approach, in early June, WBC members headed to Albany just days before the final MWBE bill was approved. Their goal was to reaffirm their talking points and provide key information and data. Kristine De Napoli, President of KND Electric, a WBC Member and also First Vice President at New York Electrical Contractors Association, made the trip up to Albany to provide financial data on the cost of construction, information that impacted the final determination of a $15 million Personal Net Worth for MWBEs. WBC created such a well-prepared and unified voice for the MWBE community, that when they spoke, legislators listened, the Governor’s office listened, and the outcome changed.
A Commitment to Industry Education:
WBC Hosts Article 15-A Legislative Briefing
On September 18, 2019, WBC hosted a special legislative briefing for its members on the newly reauthorized Article 15-A and its impact on the construction industry. The conversation was moderated by WBC Executive Director, Renee Sacks, Ph.D. and included presentations from New York State’s Deputy Secretary for Civil Rights Jonathan Smith and Acting First Assistant Counsel, Nadine Fontaine to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo who shared details about various parts of the new program and the ways in which WBC members could continue to be a part of the conversation.
“As the implementation of new rules and the creation of new regulations occur, we will continue to be at the forefront of the issues,” noted WBC, Co-Founder and Past President and CEO of Bradford Construction Corp. Sandra Wilkin. “WBC has created a credible, strong and sustainable voice as advocates for equal opportunity in our industry. and we will continue our efforts as the rules and regulations are promulgated.”