Towson – Kevin Kamenetz, the Baltimore County, Md. executive, on July 27 announced he would be signing an executive order expanding the scope of the county’s Open for Business initiative, he announced at a press conference in the County Executive’s Office.
The order aims to increase the percentage of dollars appropriated to minority- and women-owned businesses by enabling smaller businesses to secure prime, or direct contracts with the county.
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz (Courtesy Photo/baltimorecountymd.gov)
“We’re delighted to do this because it’s the right thing to do and it makes great fiscal sense for the county as well,” Kamenetz said.
The executive reasons that expanding the pool of eligible contractors will spur competition thus driving down bids and saving the county dollars while expanding opportunities to underrepresented demographics.
Under the previous arrangement for bids, goals have been consistently set and exceeded, the executive said.
Early reporting on Women and Minority Business Enterprises (WMBE) targets indicates the county is “on target” to reach a 17 percent rate of participation for the last year, a Baltimore County Executive Office press release stated.
“We’re happy that we have been exceeding our goals. We’ve really been averaging almost closer to 19 percent for subcontracting,” Kamenetz said.
Despite the statistical successes, Kamenetz says he’s been receiving pressure to do more from contractors.
“They would say, ‘Listen,we applaud your great success in achieving and exceeding our goals for WMBE subcontractors, but we also think we need greater participation as a prime contractor,’” Kamenetz said.
While Baltimore County is 35 percent non-White and somewhere close to 50 percent female, Keith Dorsey, director of the Department of Budget and Finance told the AFRO the county’s goal was only 17 percent because that was how many businesses were studied and then determined to be “ready and willing.”
On the day of the signing, Kamenetz was also slated to promote the program during a workshop at the George Washington Carver Center for Arts and Technology where 200 registered persons were registered to attend, his office said.
Kamenetz said his administration has always been open to expanding the rolls of WMBE prime and subcontractors, but the issue was one of outreach and getting information to contractors that might be discouraged by the previous system.
The AFRO asked the executive to explain the benefits of this new arrangement for women and minorities.
“We’re a very diverse county,” Kamenetz said. “We’re 35 percent non-White and you want to let everyone have the benefit of the opportunity to participate in doing business with the county. If you don’t open up your doors to those who previously did not have opportunity, then you have complaints of a ‘good ‘ol boy’ network or that the same people tend to get the same jobs all the time. And when that happens, you don’t tend to have any innovation, you don’t tend to have any price competition to the highest degree that you want. So obviously, there’s the side benefit of the equity argument that you’re opening up economic opportunities for all neighborhoods. But those are the primary goals that we would like to achieve and we think that is good public policy.”