Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Washington State Diversity Business Symposium
June 30, 2003
Itís a pleasure to be here.
I want to thank Ellen Abellara for that kind introduction, and for taking the lead in organizing this event.
I would also like to acknowledge the valuable contributions of several others:
∑Tony Orange, Commission on African American Affairs;
∑Tony Ginatta, Commission on Hispanic Affairs;
∑Andrea Alexander, Governorís Office of Indian Affairs;
∑Cathy Canerro, Office of Minority and Women-owned Businesses
∑Elliot Kim, a Commissioner on the Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs.
Thanks to all of you for your efforts, both in helping to organize this event, and in promoting the cause of diversity business.
This conference has a special importance to me.
I grew up in a small, minority-owned businessómy parentsí grocery store.
I know how hard small business owners work.
I saw it firsthand.
My parents worked seven days a week, 365 days a year.
No vacations, no days off, no time to be sick.
I spent many hours doing my homework in the back of the store.
It was a real family enterprise, which meant I also spent many hours helping stock shelves and sweep floors.
I got an up-close and personal view of what that little store meant to our family and to the neighborhood.
And that little store helped send me to college.
It helped the American dream come true for our entire family.
New technologies and tough times are changing the landscape for small businesses.
But the traditional values for which small businesses stand are as important and relevant today as ever:
Independence, self-reliance, hard work, persistence, patience, and courage.
My thanks to every one of you for your important contribution to our stateís economy.
And for the values that your businesses embody.
I am committed to small businesses.
Itís extremely important that our state offer opportunities for small businesses.
I am also committed to diversity.
The strength of our state and our nation comes from our diversity of people, cultures and religions.
Diversity is the soul of a free society.
We must always celebrate and protect that diversity.
So itís also extremely important that our state offer equal opportunities for minority and women-owned businesses.
We have seen an alarming trend in our state the past few years.
The stateís record of procurement to minority and women-owned businesses has sharply declined.
Participation of minority business enterprises in state contracts has fallen from 7.2% in 1998 to 1.5% last year.
Participation of women-owned businesses in state contracts dropped from 6.1% to 1.7% in the same time frame.
These are truly alarming trends.
I want to reverse these trends.
Thatís one of the main reasons weíre here today.
The passage of Initiative 200 in 1998 led many to believe that outreach to minorities and women business enterprises was prohibited.
Many minority and women-owned businesses assumed that the state would no longer take steps to ensure equity in state contracting.
This is not true.
Following the passage of I-200, I immediately issued Governorís Directive 98-01.
I would like to read an important section of that directive:
ďOutreach and recruitment programs designed to broaden the pool of potential contractors and provide notice of public contracting opportunities are not in conflict with I-200.
Efforts to increase the number of contractors from under-represented groups shall be intensified to make sure all qualified contractors are included and given fair consideration in public contracting.Ē
Our state remains committed to equal and accessible opportunities for all.
Minority and women-owned businesses deserve the opportunity to succeed.
I want our state to be a place known for such opportunities.
I would like to clear up another misconception.
As part of my budget proposal this year I proposed reconfiguring the Office of Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprises.
I wanted to allocate its functions to three agencies:
∑Community, Trade and Economic Development;
∑Department of General Administration;
∑Human Rights Commission.
I just shared the trends we are seeing in procurement.
The way weíre operating right now is not increasing the number of contractors from under-represented groups.
I think we can do better.
The intent of the proposed change was to increase the effectiveness of the functions now assigned to the Office of Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprises.
The intent was to increase procurement for minority and women-owned businesses.
Unfortunately, this proposed change was interpreted by some as a sudden reversal of the commitment Iíve shown my entire public life.
I have not changed.
But I believe this change in how we operate would have helped our stateís minority and women-owned businesses.
The proposal was not successful, so we need to explore other alternatives.
Given the alarming trends, itís clear that we need to take action to increase minority and women-owned business contracts with the state.
And as I said a moment ago, thatís what brings us all together today.
We are here for information, interaction, involvement and increased business.
Youíll have the opportunity to learn more about procurement processes, practices, and opportunities.
Youíll find out more about available technical and financial assistance.
Youíll discover how you can learn about procurement opportunities as they arise.
Youíll be introduced to the benefits of certification.
You will, I hope, see that there is life after I-200 for minority and women-owned businesses.
I encourage you to make the most of this learning opportunity.
You will have the opportunity to meet procurement officers from many state agencies.
Youíll meet other minority and women business owners, and other small business owners.
I encourage you to take advantage of this great networking opportunity.
This symposium will give you the opportunity to begin or increase your involvement with state agencies and the state procurement process.
This is also an excellent opportunity to become more involved with your small business colleagues, starting today.
I encourage you to commit to follow-ups from this symposium.
There is no time like the present!
We want to see the trend reversed.
We want to see an increase in the number of minority and women-owned businesses certified.
We want to see more of you contacted by state agencies as procurement opportunities arise.
And, ultimately, we want more of you contracting with the state.
Iíd like to be standing up here next year, celebrating the fact that more of you are participating in state contracts.
Today we can start to make that happen.
I want to wish all of you the best of luck in making this symposium a valuable opportunity for information, interaction, involvement and increased business.
Your state supports your enterprises.
We are proud of your accomplishments.
We stand behind you.
Letís continue to work together to make sure that Washington remains a great place to live, work, raise a familyóand to do business.