Comptroller Scott Stringer, the chief financial officer of the city, hosted a roundtable in Jamaica last Friday with the movers and shakers of local businesses, business development organizations and schools to discuss what can be done to move New York City and the borough to a better place economically.
The event took place at the Harvest Room.
“I do these roundtables,” Stringer said, “because I want to speak with the leadership of development to talk about economic development, to talk about the finances of the city and to really get the information I need from all of you so that we think of long-term economic activity.”
After asking everyone at the table to introduce themselves and the organizations that they represented, Stringer laid out his questions for his guests.
The first thing he asked about was women and minority businesses and economic development.
“What can the city be doing better?” Stringer asked. “What are we doing right? What issues should we be looking at? Part of our job at this office is that we are constantly looking at ways that we are expanding the economy to create jobs and also to balance the kind of development the community needs.”
In a New Geography of Jobs 2012 chart that the comptroller gave out, minority-owned businesses in Queens employed over 15,000 people, which was up from less than 10,000 in 2007.
One of the guests at the table asked Stringer how he felt about the City Council upping discretionary spending for Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises from $20,000 to $200,000.
The Dept. of Small Business Services released a report March 8 saying MWBEs will receive $1.7 million to help with services in marketing, technical services and recertification next year from the city.
“That is something that I support,” Stringer said. “The city spends $15.3 billion a year (from the procurement budget) on paper clips, pens, law firms and county firms, and of that $15 billion spent 4.8 percent of that is currently going to women of minority businesses.”
He furthered explained that there are only 5,000 MWBEs in the cityand “that is just 1 percent of the 800,000 businesses owned by women or owned by people of color.”
Last year he gave the city a grade of D-plus based on how city agencies allocated money for those types of businesses.
“We go through the agencies and we look at the spending. We do this not as to say ‘gotcha!’ but to put a marker down and say that MWBE spending is key to the economic opportunity people have,” Stringer said.
He also talked about job opportunities throughout the city for women and women of color.
“Why do they start going up the corporate ladder and find themselves getting stuck on the 10th floor and never make it to the C suite?” Stringer asked. “As you know, a lot of these corporate boards are basically all male, pale — hate to say this — and somewhat stale, and that is not good.”
He believes that if there is more investment in MWBEs, it will create jobs in many neighborhoods and lift up the economy.
“We need to recognize that we need to have diversity for everyone,” Stringer said. “If we went from a 4.8 to a 30 percent spending, what do you think will happen to the city? We would rapidly change the economic status of our communities. So it’s something that we are doing.”
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose