For over a decade the City University of New York (CUNY) and the City University Construction Fund (CUCF) has welcomed Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprises (MWBE) and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Businesses (SDVOB) to engage in a conference that furthers CUNY’s efforts to ensure that MWBEs and SDVOBs have access to CUNY contracts and services that can help grow their businesses. On July 31, the 11th annual conference was hosted at John Jay College, and our community welcomed CUNY board members, CUCF board members, esteemed public and elected officials, and over 1,100 participants.
“Our program today has been designed to facilitate introductions, provide information to what opportunities exist at CUNY, and help make valuable connections,” said Hector Batista, CUNY Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Operating Officer. “The theme of this year’s conference is Diversity at Work. The conversations that we will have today are profoundly important because understanding diversity, allows the opportunity to build a meaningful relationship across all types of networks.”
“When women, minorities, and veterans get down to business, let’s be honest, the work gets done and done well.” —Karol V. Mason, President of John Jay College
Karol V. Mason, President of John Jay College, welcomed the crowd in the Lynch Theater, then opened her remarks by saying that the people attending the conference were a reflection of her students at John Jay, and that they served as role models for John Jay’s student body. “This year’s conference theme, Diversity at Work, is perfect because when women, minorities, and veterans get down to business, let’s be honest, the work gets done and done well,” she said to a huge applause of appreciation.
R. Nadine Fontaine, Assistant Council, Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, took the audience through the legacy and roadmap of the state’s MWBE and SDVOB programs, citing the significant growth since their inceptions, and the hopes and plans for the programs in the future. “These initiatives are important to the Governor for the State of New York. They’re important to MWBEs and SDVOBs. They are important to the State’s economy, and most importantly, they are important to me personally,” said Fontaine. “I look forward to continuing to work with our state agencies and authorities and other partners to continue our hardwork of accessibility and supporting the MWBEs and SDVOBs.”
William C. Thompson, Jr., Chairperson, CUNY Board of Trustees, compared where CUNY was with MWBE participation when he started, to where it is now, and where he sees it going in the future. “When I came to CUNY three years ago—and I would also speak for my colleagues on the board—we took a look at where we were at in MWBE participation, and we were not happy,” said Thompson. He went on to praise the staff and CUCF for helping to move things forward, but noted that there was still a mountain to climb. “The numbers at CUNY aren’t making us happy right now. We should be in the lead in the state of New York and in the City, but we are not. We are not reflective of the City that we serve, of the population of the students that come through our doors, and we have a long way to go.” Thompson then explained the main reason why CUNY was poised to make great strides in MWBE and SDVOB participation.
“The commitment has to start from the top and it can’t come from just the board. It has to come from the Chief Executive of the institution.” —William C. Thompson, Jr., Chairperson, CUNY Board of Trustees
“The one thing that I learned from the Governor in watching him deal with MWBE participation, is that it starts from the top. The commitment has to start from the top and it can’t come from just the board. It has to come from the Chief Executive of the institution. Now, May 1st, I believe is going to be a day people remember in CUNY history. What was so special about May 1st? We got a new Chancellor.” Thompson explained that during the interview process for the Chancellor position, MWBEs and SDVOBs were brought up, and the inclusion of these groups was an important part of the decision-making process on who became the Chancellor. Before he introduced Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, CUNY Chancellor, Thompson said, “He gets it. He understands it. And, by the way, he is the first person of color to be the Chancellor of the institution. And, his team understands it.”
“CUNY and the City University Construction Fund and MWBE and SDVOB businesses, help to drive the economic engine of New York State.” — Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, CUNY Chancellor
As Matos Rodríguez took to the lectern, the audience greeted him with a thunderous applause. “It seems that with each passing year, this conference gets bigger and bigger, which brings music to my ears. Last year, I understand that we had about 900 colleagues in attendance. This year, the numbers so far are at 1,100. We keep growing and it’s a testament to the opportunities available at CUNY and the importance of the conference.” He went on to say that to sustain the greatest urban university in the country, CUNY needed a great and diverse set of partners. “We recognize the economic benefits of diversifying our business partners and working with all of you makes us a stronger university and helps us to fulfill our mission. CUNY and the City University Construction Fund and MWBE and SDVOB businesses, help to drive the economic engine of New York State.”
Walking around the conference, there was a sense of hope, opportunity, and camaraderie in the air. There were many longtime conference participants, supporters, and presenters, along with many excited new faces amongst the crowd. Luckily, we had the opportunity to chat with some of them about their experiences and expectations.
Susan Campbell, Campbell Childcare LLC
I have been in New York City since I was 11, when I came here from Grenada. I am a Special Education Teacher and I own a childcare facility in Brooklyn, New York. I have been doing this for quite a number of years, but haven’t ventured beyond being a small privately-owned business. I am looking at the possibility of expanding my business and possibly getting contracts in the future. This experience might offer me avenues in which I can grow and expand to provide better services in my community.
Desander Más, Shields Mas Learning Resources, Inc.
Fortunately, I’ve been to this event a number of times because I am both a minority owned and SDVOB for the City of New York, but it’s also great to meet new faces, introduce myself and see what future opportunities exists here. I admire what CUNY has done, there is great staff, great management, and they are very progressive in their thinking. Now that we have Chancellor Matos Rodríguez, we are really talking about diversity, and that’s great.
Quincy J. Tempro, Procurement Opportunity Officer, CUCF
My role is to make sure that the MWBEs and SDVOBs on contract are paid in a timely manner and are actually getting jobs that will give us a seat at the table. A large majority of the population at CUNY campuses are minority and women, and service people and veterans as well. We try to expand this from the campus into the construction field. We want to make sure that diversity isn’t just in the workplace but on the construction site, in engineering and architecture, and that it reflects the actual student body on campus.
Michael Kost, Fairfield Ref Cooling
I spent 21 years in the Army. I am a retired Sergeant First Class Infantry. Ninety-nine percent of my employees are retired military men and women. I’m here to meet and greet some people and find out who is in charge of the procurement opportunities that may fit for my company. We are a small company from the South Bronx, but we are the only one, that I know of, that have Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan veterans on the job sites.
Amber Greene, MWBE Outreach Coordinator, New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS)
This conference is vitally important because minority-owned businesses have an opportunity to bid on contracts, whereas without it, the big corporations will swallow them up, and they will not have an equal opportunity at procuring contracts. Through this conference they have an opportunity to better themselves, make money, and bid with these large corporations and not feel like they don’t have a chance.
Ronald Paynter, Director of Purchasing and Contracts at The CUNY Graduate Center
This event gives opportunities for the MWBE firms and the SDVOBs to sit there and meet up with a lot of different vendors and all of the CUNY colleges, and see what is available to them and build those relationships. Their whole business can expand and this gives them the opportunity to do so.
Michael Feeney, Deputy Director of Construction, Facilities Planning and Construction Management (FCPM)
I’ve been coming here for a decade. We’ve been here from the inception of this program, and I’ve seen the results. I hire architects and engineers for construction firms. Over that decade, with the contractors that I’ve dealt with, I’ve seen the relationships build and a lot of companies get a lot of opportunities. It’s been interesting watching that development and watching smaller firms build relationships with CUNY.
More scenes from the event: