King County Executive Dow Constantine issued an executive order that will remove barriers, implement innovative contracting methods, and take other actions to make it easier for minority- and women-owned businesses (MWBEs) to contract with King County.
“This executive order ensures every county agency focuses on increasing minority- and women-owned businesses when seeking private-sector partners. As we move forward, we want to closely partner with MWBE organizations and contractors, learn from their experiences, and ensure meaningful results,” said Constantine. “We expect this action to substantially increase participation in county contracts, which is consistent with the True North values of making King County a welcoming community where every person can thrive.”
According to officials, the actions set forth in the order will help transform the county’s existing race- and gender-neutral contracting program into one that is more pro-equity and amplifies the participation of MWBEs.
Minority- and women-owned business organizations such as Tabor 100, the Black Contractors and Professionals group, and others recognized the Executive’s commitment to increase contracting opportunities for MWBEs and the amount King County spends with these firms.
“Here at Tabor 100, we are building a culture where difference is valued,” said Ollie Garrett, CEO/President of Tabor 100. “Tabor 100 expresses our support for King County’s Executive Order and its commitment to removing barriers in the public contracting process to help more minority firms to win government contracts.”
Lisa van der Lugt, director of the Office of Minority and Women’s Business Enterprises (OMWBE) for the state of Washington, said in statement that “as the certifying agency for minority- and women-owned small businesses in Washington State, OMWBE is thrilled to see King County take intentional steps to build equity into its contracting process. This Executive Order will support businesses that have been hit the hardest by the pandemic, evening the playing field and allowing more minority- and women-owned businesses to compete for public contracting and procurement opportunities.”
The executive order highlights the ongoing and new actions King County will take to ensure results. For example, one of the new actions is to create a reciprocal certification program with the state’s MWBE Office so that a small firm that is certified by the state will automatically be certified as a Small Contractor and Supplier (SCS) by King County.
James Faison, president of the National Association of Minority Contractors (NAMC-WA) said, “[Our] goal is to build and support small and minority firms to achieve their contracting goals. We are proud to be working with King County and other organizations such as Tabor 100, Black Coalition of Contractors and Professionals, and Latino Civic Alliance in their efforts to have fair and equal opportunities for all firms across the board. There have been troubled times for WMBE firms in the construction market for a long time … WMBE firms are looking for a hand up, not a hand out.” King County has worked for more than 20 years to increase opportunities for MWBEs. Since 2016, more than $280 million worth of county contracts have been awarded to small businesses on the certified Small Contractors and Suppliers (SCS) roster. Of that amount, $61 million, or 22%, went to minority-owned firms. Also, since 2016, the county awarded $150 million to other MWBEs that were not part of the SCS roster.