Mayor Eric Adams appointed New York City’s first Chief Business Diversity Officer Thursday, as hizzoner looks to make sure that a greater number of city contracts are awarded to minority and women-owned businesses (M/WBE).
The mayor also announced that a greater focus will be placed on awarding contracts to certain M/WBE groups, with less of focus placed on allocating M/WBE contracts to businesses owned by white women and Asian men.
Michael Garner, who served as the chief diversity and inclusion officer at the MTA, has been appointed to the new role and will be part of the mayor’s Office of Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises. He is being tasked with making sure that city contracts are awarded more equitably.
The mayor also said that Garner’s role will also be to help address a “disparity within the disparity.” While M/WBEs are underutilized across the board, certain ethnic and gender groups fare much worse.
Garner has been tasked with making sure that Black, Hispanic and Native American M/WBEs and Asian-American WBE’s get a greater share of city dollars. This focus is part of Executive Order 26, which Adams signed Wednesday.
“This administration has placed economic equity front and center as the city emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic and recovers economically,” Adams said in a statement. “By signing Executive Order 26 to increase the number of underrepresented ethnic groups awarded city contracts and appointing Michael Garner…we are reaffirming our administration’s commitment to expanding opportunities for our minority and women-owned business owners.”
Executive Order 26 will put certain ethnic groups at the front of the line when it comes to smaller city contracts, whenever possible.
For city contracts up to $500,000, city agencies have been directed to procure goods, services and construction (on a non-competitive basis) from Black, Hispanic and Native American M/WBEs and Asian-American WBE’s.
On contracts between $500,000 and $1 million, city agencies are advised to award contracts to all M/WBE groups if possible — which includes white women and Asian men.
The previous threshold limit of the M/WBE directive was $500,000 but it has been lifted to $1 million. This is the first time that the city has broken the M/WBE directive down by specific ethnic groups and by gender.
Adams said that the amount prioritized for M/WBEs is “expected to rise dramatically in upcoming years.”
Garner, in consultation with the NYC Department of Small Business Services and the Mayor’s office of Contract Services, is required to review the agency procurement data and determine whether any changes in the ethnic or gender categories of M/WBE need to be made.
Several city officials said that Garner is the right person to fill the role. Garner, prior to working at the MTA, held positions at the New York City Housing Authority and the New York City School Construction Authority.
“I am thrilled to welcome Michael Garner to this administration as the chief business diversity officer. Michael has a proven track-record of breaking through bureaucratic hurdles to ensure M/WBE contractors are given a seat at the table and, more importantly, are awarded contracts,” said First Deputy Mayor Sheena Wright, to whom Garner will report.
Meanwhile, New York City Comptroller Brad Lander also welcomed Garner’s appointment.
“New York’s rich diversity should be reflected in our economy, yet women and people of color remain underrepresented in who our city does business with,” Lander said. “Michael Garner brings a wealth of experience and relationships to breaking down barriers to doing business with the city for firms led by people of color and women.”
Adams also won praise from members of his administration.
“The Adams administration has put Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises front-and-center in our economic recovery,” said city Small Business Services (SBS) Commissioner Kevin D. Kim. “As the city’s first-ever chief business diversity officer, Michael’s vast experience and outstanding record of delivering for the people of New York will set our local businesses up to thrive. “