January 11– Today Mayor Byron W. Brown announced the next phase of building a city of opportunity for all residents by launching the Buffalo Opportunity Agenda. This next phase focuses on improving conditions for minority and women owned business enterprises (MBE/WBE) and minorities and female workers. The Opportunity Agenda will also include several executive orders that bolster equity in contracting and hiring opportunities in New York State’s second largest city, as well as the formation of the City of Buffalo Contract Compliance Committee and the release of a request for proposals (RFP) for an operator of the Beverly Gray Business Exchange Center. “A healthy and diverse business sector and ensuring employment opportunities for all City residents is critically important to continuing Buffalo’s economic renaissance,” said Mayor Brown, noting that a part of his Opportunity Agenda establishes a “First Source” hiring policy for major economic development and Public Works projects and encourages selection of professional services firms that have demonstrated efforts to partner with Minority and Women Business Enterprises and diversity in hiring. “The changes included in this plan reflect my ongoing commitment to advancing diversity, inclusion and equity in our City.” The executive orders that Mayor Brown will issue create incentives for contractors who reach and/or exceed MBE/WBE goals in the city. These incentives will recognize businesses that demonstrate their commitment to hiring residents that live within the city limits and mentor MBE/WBE’s, by providing them with additional points on city bids. The city will now employ a “First Source” hiring policy for public works contracts requiring contractors and subcontractors to make demonstrable efforts to meet or exceed the 25% residency hiring goals included in the City’s charter. Business utilization goals of 25% MBE/ and 5% WBE and work force utilization goals of 25% minority and 5% female will also be included for major economic development and public works projects. Mayor Brown’s plan also includes new procedures for subcontractor substitutions. In the event that the MBE/WBE subcontractor identified during the bidding process is unable to perform the work as needed, contractors are now required to submit a written request to the City for a replacement, detailing the inability of the subcontractor to perform and the good faith efforts to replace a MBE/WBE with another. “Success among small businesses, including women and minority business enterprises, means more jobs and long-term prosperity for everyone,” said Buffalo Common Council President Darius Pridgen. “I applaud Mayor Brown’s decision to make these issues and concepts the focus of his next phase for the City’s Opportunity Agenda.”
“We want to ensure that projects funded by city taxpayers, as much as possible, support City residents,” Department of Public Works Commissioner Steven Stepniak said. “Working on these projects also gives residents from different backgrounds a sense of pride in their City.” Other policy changes include:• The incorporation of additional scoring into City RFP/RFQ processes for Professional Services, giving points to firms and businesses that have demonstrated MBE/WBE programs and policies and the presence of minorities and women in their workforce. • The development of City Human resources program to continue the practice of City job advertising in all communities and, where possible, in various languages, to ensure a diverse applicant pool and a diverse City workforce that mirrors the city’s population.• Encouraging the participation and reducing the stigma of individuals returning to the area from incarceration by officially utilizing the term “Returning Citizen’, instead of “Ex-Offender” or “Ex-Convict”. The Mayor has also renamed the Re-Entry program at the Buffalo Employment & Training Center, the R.I.S.E. – Re-Integration Services for Employment program to reflect this change. • Lastly, the Mayor has created the City of Buffalo Contract Compliance Committee to monitor the progress of these policy changes. This body will have the power to review City contracts and policies and make suggestions to the Mayor to ensure success. The committee will also create a mentor-protégé program that provides incentives to majority business that mentor minority and women-owned businesses.Johnathan M. Holifield, the Co-founder and Principal of ScaleUp Partners LLC, a social enterprise to advance Inclusive Competitiveness through STEM education achievement, high-growth entrepreneurship and private capital formation and investment, stated, "Mayor Brown has the right vision to lead in this area. The compilation of Executive Orders demonstrates policy and programming leadership and is proof positive of this point. His groundbreaking MBE/WBE bundle and supporting advocacy will steer Buffalo down the right course of equity in City contracting. Furthermore, Mayor Brown’s choice of Crystal Rodriguez as the City's first Chief Diversity Officer and point person to direct these efforts confirm his unequivocal commitment to provide opportunities for underserved Americans to improve the business productivity with the City of Buffalo.” “As an investor and developer, primarily on the East Side, I am so encouraged to hear Mayor Brown’s vision of establishing a contract compliance committee,” said David Pawlik, owner of Creative Structures Services. “Additionally, knowing that a mentoring program is being created that will help those individuals in the minority community develop companies like CSS Construction has done for many years, mentoring smaller companies to grow and become self-sufficient, is more good news for the city of good neighbors.”David Schopp, CEO of The Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo, signaled its support for these executive orders saying, “The Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo looks forward to working with the City of Buffalo as we welcome home returning citizens back to their community. The spirit of the City of Good Neighbors is apparent when we come together to welcome these citizens home and provide them with support.” Aaron Bartley Executive Director and PUSH co-founder said, "First Source hiring has proven to be an effective tool for ensuring that residents have access to jobs as cities see new investment. Strengthening First Source in Buffalo, as Mayor Brown has done with this executive order, is a crucial step in the long-term effort to create a city of opportunity for all residents. Poverty and racism have been barriers to equitable development in Buffalo. More diligent First Source enforcement will give communities the leverage they need to place talented, out-of-work residents in decent jobs in proximity to the neighborhoods they call home.”With record economic development and overwhelming community support for the Buffalo Opportunity pledge, a strong foundation has been established to build upon Mayor Brown’s focus on creating opportunity for all city residents through the introduction of these six executive orders that constitute the Opportunity Agenda.
The Brown administration also released an RFP seeking a program operator for the Beverly Gray Business Exchange Center, who will be tasked with program delivery which includes hiring, employing and managing staff. The center, named after the first African American Woman elected Councilmember-at-Large for the City of Buffalo, is a comprehensive one stop small business technical resource center developed to support Minority-Owned Business Enterprises (“MBE”), Women-Owned Business Enterprises (“WBE”), Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Businesses (“SDVOB”), and small businesses in the City of Buffalo and WNY region. “My administration has invested nearly $3 million into the development of this project. We are committed to making every effort to spread Buffalo’s renaissance into every segment of our population and every section of our city,” said Mayor Brown. The program operator is also expected to deliver services including, capacity building, networking, business planning, certification assistance, matchmaking and co-working space. The Beverly Gray Business Exchange Center already has tenants. The following businesses are located in the Center: o Compliance and Administrative Services of New York o Excelsior Growth Fund/New York Business Development Corporation o PathStone Capital o Mustard Seed World Consultingo Small Business Development Centero Urban Equity Management Group
“The Beverly Gray Business Exchange Center is designed to be a one-stop-shop resource center for minority and women-owned small businesses in Buffalo,” said Attorney Acea Mosey of Mosey Associates LLP. “This center will aide local businesses in finding M/WBEs to help meet the city’s M/WBE goals.”“I am encouraged by Mayor Brown’s efforts and commitment to enhance and expand access to employment opportunities to the citizens of Buffalo. His message truly resonates with the faculty, students and staff at Buffalo State College where diversity and inclusion rank high among our core values. We applaud the mayor’s efforts and commend him for his visionary actions in these Executive Orders,” said Katherine Conway-Turner, Buffalo State College (SUNY) President. Since 2012, the City of Buffalo has experienced over $5.6 billion in economic development that has dramatically reshaped the city’s landscape. Mayor Brown concluded, “We must continue to work together so that every resident of this City has the opportunity to benefit from Buffalo’s growth, this is one of the best ways to ensure Buffalo’s continued growth and success.”