PROVIDENCE, RI- Today at New England Highway Technologies, a minority-owned business in Cranston, Governor Gina M. Raimondo signed an executive order extending the Working Group on Diversity in Construction for another year. The Governor originally launched the group in January 2017 to identify barriers that disadvantaged minority, women and disability business enterprises face in construction and to develop strategies to provide these groups with fair participation in Rhode Island's public construction projects.
"Diversity is one of our state's biggest strengths," said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. "As Governor, I'm committed to working hard to support across the board fairness and opportunity for every Rhode Islander. We've created thousands of jobs, particularly in construction, but we need to ensure that minority- and women-owned businesses have a fair shot at getting those jobs. I'm proud to extend this Working Group for another year and continue to make progress towards equity."
In the past year, the Working Group has:
• identified and begun researching several target areas;
• met with focus groups to hear some of the challenges facing the diverse business community;
• submitted recommendations; and
• created legislative proposals for issues affecting minority and women-owned businesses.
"Thanks to the leadership of Governor Raimondo and the hard work of this group, I was able to provide goods and services directly to the state as a prime vendor for the first time this year," said Richard Disono, owner of New England Highway Technologies. "I believe that the continued work of this group will lead to more opportunities for small businesses like mine."
In addition to the specific target areas identified by the working group, improvements have been made to the minority- and women-owned business enterprise (W/MBE) program in general. The certification process, which previously took 50 days to complete on average, has now been streamlined to about two weeks.
"I've always known that with the support of leadership, we can accomplish our goals and objectives to truly move the dial on diversity and inclusion across government," said Cheryl Burrell, Associate Director of the State's Office of Diversity, Equity and Opportunity.
Since 2015, the number of W/MBE firms has increased by 33%. The utilization of certified M/WBE across all state procurements has more than tripled in the past three years, from 4.1% in FY 2015 to 14.9% in the first three quarters of FY 2018.
Of the Working Group's future efforts, Darrell Waldron, co-chair of the Group and Executive Director of the Rhode Island Indian Council said, "When all people are working together, success is imminent."
Although progress has been made, there is still significant work to be done to increase the participation of minority, women and disability businesses on public construction projects.
"The legislative initiatives developed during the working group are worth fighting for," said Barbara Thornton, member of the Working Group and partner at Brewster Thornton Group Architects. "This extension gives us another year to get them in front of the legislature for their full support."
Existing members of the Working Group will remain.