- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 10, 2016

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minority-owned companies in Minnesota get only a small fraction of state procurement work despite a program designed to help them win more of that business, according to state figures.

Minorities were awarded work totaling $14.3 million, less than 1 percent of the state’s total spending of about $2 billion on everything from construction to food services between July 2014 and July 2015.

“If that’s not woefully inadequate, I don’t know what is,” said Gary L. Cunningham, president and CEO of the Metropolitan Economic Development Association, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit that offers services such as business planning and training to minority entrepreneurs.

State officials acknowledge there is work to be done.

“It’s unacceptable,” said Matt Massman, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Administration, which oversees state procurement. “The numbers need to be better, and we are focused and committed to doing that.”

On contracts of $500,000 or more, Minnesota requires companies to hire minority or other ‘targeted group” subcontractors. The state, however, doesn’t check invoices to make sure they’re in compliance, Minnesota Public Radio News (https://bit.ly/2aYVvlB ) reported.

State officials acknowledge Minnesota has never tracked or monitored spending with diverse businesses.

Vivian Guerra, an American Indian vendor, said she gets calls from contractors inviting her to submit bids to subcontract on state business, but then nothing happens.

“It’s like crickets,” said Guerra, co-owner of Adobe DeSigns, a Minneapolis-based signage company.

“They know they have to reach out to (minority) businesses with solicitations, but that’s all they do because the state doesn’t follow up after that,” she said. “That whole good faith effort thing is a joke.”

The state has responded with a multimillion-dollar upgrade of the program, including computer improvements and increased community outreach.


Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, https://www.mprnews.org

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