A short list of Pennsylvania House members including Rep. Jake Wheatley of the Hill District gathered a panel of minority, women and veteran owned business advocates this week to urge fellow lawmakers to pass a bill that would create set aside goals for under represented businesses. H.B. 2149 died last session without coming up for a vote. It would have set affirmative action goals for state contracts. Wheatley hopes to offer similar legislation in the current session.
Western Pennsylvania Minority Supplier Development Council President Lawrence Nichols was among those on the panel. He says the only department in the state that seems to be doing a good job of contracting with minority owned firms is the Department of Welfare. He says there are other states that Pennsylvania can turn to as a model. He says at this time no one seems to know how well minority owned firms do in state contracts. “I’ve never done a survey of my organizations… to see how many of them have active contracts with the state,” says Nichols.
The Western Pennsylvania Minority Supplier Development Council represents about 120 minority owned businesses. Nichols says that includes businesses owned by African Americans, Asians, Hispanics and Indians. Groups representing women owned business and veteran owned business were also on the panel. Some argue that there are not enough minority, women and veteran owned businesses in the state to support set asides. Others argue that without the set asides there will never be enough of those businesses.
Nichols says he plans to return to Harrisburg several times in the coming months to promote the pending legislation. He says one of the first tasks will be making sure the new governor is on board.