Fighting for BRAC dollars
Brown: Minority business issues still need attention
Quality Solution Technologies, a small information technology business in Damascus, has received some government contracts, said Fleming, its president.
‘‘We mostly have private clients,” he said. ‘‘But there are a lot of contracts coming out of the BRAC process, so it makes sense for us to see if we can obtain any of that work.”
However, winning these contracts could prove elusive for Fleming’s and other minority-owned companies.
For one thing, the BRAC program does not contain specific minority contracting goals, officials said during a meeting Wednesday in Silver Spring coordinated by the Maryland⁄District of Columbia Minority Supplier Development Council.
Wayne R. Frazier Sr., president of the Maryland Washington Minority Contractors Association, based in Baltimore, said he recently raised that issue during another meeting on BRAC.
‘‘I was pretty much shouted down,” Frazier said, indicating he was told then that the issue had not been addressed.
The state can make sure that any BRAC project involving its agencies abides by Maryland’s minority contracting goals, said Luwanda W. Jenkins, special secretary of the Governor’s Office of Minority Affairs. She attended the supplier council meeting along with other state officials, including Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D).
In fact, Jenkins said that issue is being addressed in a special action plan her office is developing that is expected to be finalized this year. As much as $10 billion in BRAC contracts for everything from road construction to building maintenance is expected to be available in the next few years, she said.
‘‘Some BRAC-related contracts are being let now, so the earlier contracts will not have the [minority business] goals,” said Jenkins, who was appointed to her position earlier this year after directing the same office from 1994 to 1997.
Across Maryland, the BRAC plan is expected to add about 17,000 direct jobs and some 30,000 more indirect ones over the next five years, according to a state report. The bulk will be at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County and Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County.
The jobs will carry an average wage of $70,000, and most will be new ones, not transfers from people moving, according to a study by Towson University’s Regional Economic Studies Institute.
The state’s goal is to award 25 percent of contracts to minority- and women-owned companies. That figure was 22 percent last fiscal year, up from 15.6 percent in 2003, according to a state report.
Awards to minority businesses increased from $576.9 million in fiscal 2003 to $1.02 billion in fiscal 2006.
Brown said he will ‘‘engage the federal delegation” — including Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Benjamin Cardin — to make sure the process allows minority businesses a fair opportunity to win BRAC-related contracts.
‘‘On the state level, we have a lot of control over that,” Brown said at the minority supplier council’s first ‘‘Presidential Power Breakfast.”
The breakfast is planned to become a quarterly business development series, said council President Kenneth Clark. The council certifies and seeks to increase procurement and business development opportunities for minority-owned businesses headquartered in Maryland and the District of Columbia.
Also at Wednesday’s meeting, Herbert Jordan III, assistant secretary of the Governor’s Office of Minority Affairs told the attendees, who included about 50 minority business executives, that obtaining governmental contracts is often a much different process from private deals. Partnerships are generally not encouraged during the public process, and timeliness is not a clear objective, he said.
‘‘The process can take a lot of time,” Jordan said.
A data-driven accountability program called State Stat begun by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) will significantly help in measuring progress in meeting minority-contracting goals, Jordan said. The minority affairs office is working on getting state departments to report on meeting contracting goals monthly, not just annually, he said.