NYS answers why it's taking so long to certify minority, women-owned businesses

February 21, 2019 07:05 PM

NEW YORK (WHEC) -- Why is it taking the state so long to approve applications by businesses owned by minorities and women in our community?

That is a question News10NBC has been asking the state for almost a week.

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As of Thursday night, we have the state's answers. 

The state says it has the most aggressive minority and women-owned business certification program in the country. 

Luis DeJesus walked from a job site in Canandaigua to talk to News10NBC. He's an electrician and he showed News10NBC his business card which says he's a certified minority business owner. 

"It gives a smaller contractor the opportunity to grow and hire employees," DeJesus said. "You're making money and you give back to the community in that aspect."

DeJesus is applying for re-certification with Empire State Development.

So is Pam Fenlon, the CEO of Layer 3 Technologies. She says she applied for re-certification as a woman-owned business two years ago. 

"No, I can't get them to explain what the problem is," Fenlon said. "They just said there are a lot of applications, we're on the list." 

On Thursday, Fenlon called to say she was contacted by Empire State Development and asked to provide more documents for her application. 

Jason Torres, a window installation contractor in Webster, applied for his certification more than a year ago. 

"The opportunities are there but we're waiting for the state to finally look at our application and say you're good to go," Torres said. 

So the first question News10NBC asked Empire State Development was: how many state-certified minority and women-owned businesses are there?

The answer provided was 8,600. 

ESD says almost 90 percent have been certified since Governor Cuomo took office in 2011.

ESD says there are 442 in the greater Rochester area. 

Then we asked: why the delays? 

The answer: "We have seen unprecedented interest in the MWBE program and are working through applications diligently. This takes time because we hold ourselves and applicants to rigorous standards, and often have to request additional documents as applicants often fail to provide all of the requisite information and/or documentation, which contributes to the delay of approval."

A day after our first story, Torres says his application file went from "pending receipt" to "received and in process."  

ESD says as long as a business has re-applied for certification, its status remains intact even if the application process extends beyond the expiration date. 

At a budget hearing last week, the head of Empire State Development, Howard Zemsky, told state lawmakers he's hiring more staff to reduce the delays. 

The goal of any state project is to get 30 percent of the contracts awarded to minority and women-owned businesses. 

The state says it has reached 29 percent. 


Berkeley Brean

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