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Port Authority Procurement Program to Address Minority Business Disparities

In furtherance of its commitment to advancing opportunities for minority- and woman-owned businesses, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Board of Commissioners recently amended its policy to allow for the increase of the threshold for the direct solicitation of agency-certified Minority-owned Business Enterprises (MBEs) and Woman-owned Business Enterprises (WBEs) on certain smaller contracts to promote competition and provide for more diverse and inclusive contract opportunities.

The new discretionary small contract procurement program is designed to reduce the disparity and under-utilization of certain racial, ethnic and gender groups that meet the qualifications required to deliver certain Port Authority projects, to ensure that they are able to compete for agency contracts.

The Board vote authorizes the Port Authority to directly solicit PA-certified, underutilized MWBE firms to participate in competitive procurements regarding construction and goods and services, including professional services. The procurement program involves contracts of up to $2.5 million for construction solicitations and up to $1.5 million for all other solicitations.

“The Port Authority’s commitment to supporting programs designed to promote inclusiveness in contracts for construction and services is unwavering,” said Port Authority Chairman Kevin O’Toole. “Today’s action continues the Board’s effort to enhance and improve the process of selecting certified minority- and woman-owned enterprises for Port Authority projects.”

“We recognize the critical role that MWBEs play in local communities and in the regional economy and we are committed to reducing the historic disparity in the Port Authority’s contracts with MWBE firms,” said Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton. “This program will maintain a competitive procurement process and boost direct contracting opportunities for MWBEs with the agency.”

“We are confident that the program will address disparities in utilization of MWBEs,” said Port Authority Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer Michael G. Massiah.

In 2017, the Port Authority hired Mason Tillman Associates, Ltd. (MT) to conduct a Disparity Study, which included research and review of MWBE contract awards to determine whether disparities existed between the availability of MWBE firms in the marketplace and the utilization of MWBE firms by the Port Authority.

MT’s findings in 2018 led the Board of Commissioners to establish  a requirement that Port Authority contracts include good faith participation goals of 20 percent by MBEs and 10 percent by WBEs on all prime contracts, with an objective of increasing subcontracting opportunities for MBE and WBE firms. In 2021, at the request of the agency, MT refreshed its study and concluded that disparities continued to exist.

The new discretionary small contracts procurement program is intended to create additional opportunities for MWBEs to compete for direct contract awards with the Port Authority in a continuing effort to reduce the disparities identified in the latest MT study.

Once certified by the Port Authority as an MWBE, a business is eligible to participate in the Port Authority’s supplier diversity program. The Port Authority provides information on opportunities for local businesses to become certified with the agency and throughout the year, and hosts various industry information sessions, workshops, apprenticeship programs and job fairs.

To become a certified MWBE with the Port Authority, or to check on your certification status, please click here. Click here for vendor resources and for information regarding the certification process and here for business opportunities.

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