State Sen. George Young wants to make Oklahoma the premier state for supporting minority and female-owned businesses, a commitment he vocalized during his interim study – Equitable Procurement for Minority and Women-owned Businesses – that was hosted Tuesday at the state Capitol.
“Last week was the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Small Business Week, and I’m thrilled the federal government is giving some attention to their importance within our communities,” said Young, D-Oklahoma City. “However, we must establish policies to broaden our tax base and promote a larger pool that will benefit all Oklahomans – especially our small business owners. Why does the state give economic incentives to the Oklahoma City Thunder, for example, but fail miserably at providing incentives for small business owners? The state has a duty to provide equitable resources for all.”
The study brought together small business owners, community development leaders and government officials to discuss equitable solutions to ensure minority and women-owned businesses are operating on a level playing field.
Presenter Robert Ruiz, president of the Scissortail Community Development Corporation, said a simple solution to allow more minority businesses to compete for government contracts would be to break down the projects into smaller sections. He explained most of these contracts are large in scope and could only be won by the largest companies in the state, but if the contracts are broken down into manageable projects, it would be more equitable for Oklahoma’s small businesses to participate and compete.
Apollo Woods, OKC Black Eats owner, agreed with the sentiment, and added that cities should also be breaking down their contracts to make them more obtainable for small business owners.
Oklahoma County Commissioner Carrie Blumert addressed the group with a legislative solution to expanding opportunities for minority and women-owned businesses. She said she began working with Woods to start a purchasing program that would help these small businesses, but the pair quickly found state statute does not give county governments the authority to begin programs such as these. Blumert’s solution was to update language within state laws so counties across Oklahoma could have the option to begin minority and women-owned business programs if they’d like.
“I am very thankful to all of our speakers for giving us their time and sharing their wisdom with members of the Senate Business, Commerce and Tourism Committee regarding minority and female-led businesses,” Young said. “While we live in a traditionally business-friendly state, there’s more we need to do to ensure our policies are fair and just for all business owners – not just the large corporations. I look forward to continuing this discussion as we work towards the 2022 legislative session.”
Other study presenters included Ailene Siharath, The Hive Eatery co-owner, and Ken Talley, Oklahoma Department of Commerce business specialist/minority-owned business information.