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More Opportunities for Diverse Contractors to Improve Pennsylvania Communities


Armand Jackson

Back in 2015, Governor Tom Wolf signed an executive order to create the Bureau of Diversity, Inclusion and Small Business Opportunities (BDISBO) to serve as the Governor’s advisory council on state employment contracts, job creation initiatives, financing programs and more. This agency was created to address the low rates of minority-owned, woman-owned and veteran-owned small businesses, as well as, help those businesses contribute to the state’s larger economy and deal with disparities in unemployment rates between various demographics. These steps led to the 2018 study which examined disparities in Pennsylvania’s contracting system as well as challenges faced by small diverse businesses when it comes to state government contracting. 

As a result of the study, Governor Wolf announced new procurement changes along with implementation of new policies and programs in 2020. These changes were introduced to improve opportunities for minority, women, LGBT, veteran and disabled owned businesses to compete for state government contracts. The three new changes were the implementation of Goal Setting, the establishment of a Veterans Business Enterprise (VBE) program and utilizing the Small Business Reserve (SBR) program. 

Goal Setting replaced the scoring process used for Small Business/Small Diverse Business subcontracting participation and made the new goal for 26.3 percent of Pennsylvania’s contracting to go to Small Diverse Businesses. Similarly, 4.6 percent of the state’s contracting will go to Veteran Business Enterprises. And the Small Business Reserve program requires all state agencies under the governor’s jurisdiction to identify and target 15 percent of their total agency contract spending for Small Business Reserve procurements. This allows businesses of similar sizes and resources to compete for specific government contract opportunities as prime contractors. The Small Diverse Business Program for Construction also ensures open and equitable contracting practices are used by prime contractors in soliciting and contracting with other enterprises.

On a more localized level there is also the Rebuild program in Philadelphia. This program, in order to promote diversity and inclusion, supports minorities and women in the design and construction industries who are looking for contractor opportunities to make physical improvements to community parks, recreation centers, and libraries in the city. The goal is to employ more minority-led businesses and create a more diverse community workforce in construction-related professions like landscape architects, general contractors, plumbers, and electricians. Rebuild also has two workforce development programs that assists in accomplishing this goal.

The Rebuild Ready program helps small businesses, among other things, become certified and registered as a minority-owned-business (MBE) or woman-owned-business (WBE) and gain access to networking events that connect these businesses with the nonprofits managing Rebuild contract projects. Rebuild Ready is being offered in partnership with the Enterprise Center and Surety Bond Associates. These organizations specialize in assisting minority firms and entrepreneurs with growing their businesses and compete in local, regional and global markets. The other program is the Emerging Vendors Program, which also helps design and construction businesses get certified as minority or woman owned companies as well as receive assistance in obtaining preference for Philadelphia contracts.