In 2006, Michigan voters adopted Proposal 2 (Prop 2), the anti-affirmative action ballot initiative that specifically precludes state agencies from “granting preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in ... public contracting,” (Michigan Constitution, Art. 1 Sec. 26). The effect of adopting this initiative nullified the little known, or used, state statute, PA 428 of 1980 titled, State Procurement for Minority Owned and Women Owned Businesses (Act). The statute was enacted “to provide for the designation of state procurements of goods, services and construction for minority owned and woman owned businesses.”
Under this Act, the Department of Management and Budget was required to implement the Governor’s established policy to meet procurement goals of contracting with women and minority owned businesses. However, little was done to promote or comply with the provisions of this statute. Today, one of the only state departments legally authorized to comply with established goals for awarding contracts to women and minority owned businesses is the Michigan Department of Transportation (Department).
The Department receives Federal Highway Administration funds and is required to award 9% of those funds to Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs), otherwise defined as minority and women owned businesses. Sadly, 2017 was the first year MDOT met that 9% set aside. In an effort to increase awareness among DBE vendors, the Department now hosts contracting seminars and procurement trainings sessions across the state. However, even with these efforts, a significant gap still exists between the number of construction contracts that are available and the number of those contracts that are awarded to minority or woman owned businesses.
In early 2000, the Department of Management and Budget, through the Buy4Michigan initiative, began to promote procurement opportunities and educate business owners about the procurement process. Outreach efforts were designed to ensure educational seminars reached women and minority owned business communities, however, they never reached their full potential. Over the past several years these presentations have diminished, and the nuances of state contracting have become more complicated for Michigan businesses.
Bidding on a state contract is not an impossible task. The process follows seven basic steps:
Entering the arena of state procurement takes time and money for research, preparation and the willingness to invest in cultivating relationships with state agency decision makers. With a state portfolio of contracts for construction, goods and services of over $53 billion, it is imperative that women and minority business communities properly respond to solicitations and establish key relationships that could impact the bidding process in a positive way.
Monique Field-Foster is an attorney and registered lobbyist at the law firm Warner Norcross & Judd LLP where she counsels business owners in all stages of the state procurement process and assists them with the cultivation of government relationships. She can be reached at email@example.com.