The Thunderous Silence

Image of Tony Meilo

In 2005, Dave Gindele, a NaVOBA member who lives in Pennsylvania, noticed the Commonwealth had a program designed to increase state contracting opportunities for women and minority-owned business enterprises, but there was no inclusion of veteran-owned businesses. Gindele decided to do something about it and spearheaded legislation (SB 1353) that would set aside 5 percent of state contracts for VOBs.


SB 1353 passed unanimously through the Senate and made it to the House Veteran Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, but it was never brought to a vote. The bill was reintroduced in 2007 as SB 87. That same year, a similar piece of legislation was introduced in the state House that same year (HB 62), that included goals for service-disabled, veteran-owned businesses. Both bills stalled in the House Veteran Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee. This same scenario unfolded again and both bills were reintroduced (as HB 350 and SB 162 for the 2009-2010 session) and found their way to the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee.
 

NaVOBA contacted Tony Melio, who serves as the chairman of the committee, and asked why neither of the two bills has ever made it out of his committee after three years. Melio replied in a letter that the intentions of both bills are "laudable," but implementation and administration of the type of program described in the legislation would cost the Commonwealth $500,000 per year. NaVOBA instantly requested the amount of money the Commonwealth spends to administer the MBE/WBE program, but Melio failed to reply. To read Melio’s response letter, visit www.navoba.com/melioresponse.
 

The Commonwealth outsources about $4 billion annually. The Pennsylvania the Department of General Services' Bureau of Minority and Women Business Opportunities works to ensure the state hits its goal of spending 10 percent of state contract dollars with MBE/WBEs. Participation in the MBE/WBE program has grown from less than 2 percent in 2002 to more than 10 percent in 2008 – representing an opportunity of more than $400 million per year.
 

HB 350 set to establish a goal of 2.5 percent for both VOBs and SDVOBs. Even if it were passed with only a 2.5 percent goal, Pennsylvania veteran-owned businesses would have been eligible for more than $300 million over the last three years. If SB 1353 became law in 2006, more than $600 million in state contracts could have gone to Pennsylvania’s veteran business owners. On Oct. 28, Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell signed an executive order to ensure small and disadvantaged businesses receive fair opportunities to compete for state-administered funds through the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.


"We already have a good track record and processes in place to ensure that small and disadvantaged businesses can participate in state contracts," Rendell said. "Because they provide creativity, innovation and technical expertise, small and disadvantaged businesses are the engine of our economy and play a critical role in stimulating economic growth."


The executive order mirrors the 10 percent goal for MBE/WBEs, but focuses on Recovery Act contract funds. The order also directs the departments of Community and Economic Development and Military and Veterans Affairs to participate in providing information and opportunities for small, disadvantaged and veteran-owned businesses, but does not establish goals.

 

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