Massachusetts State Legislature Testimony - S.2403

January 27, 2020


Senator Marc R. Pacheco, Chair

Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight

24 Beacon Street, Room 312-B

Boston, MA 02133


Representative Danielle Gregoire, Chair

Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight

24 Beacon Street, Room 22

Boston, MA 02133


Senator Pacheco, Representative Murphy, and honorable members of the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight:


My name is Segun Idowu and I have the privilege of serving as the Executive Director of the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts (BECMA). I come to you today on behalf of our over 250 business members in order to express our full support for S.2403, “An Act relative to the expansion of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.” Passage of this legislation would not only create important opportunities for local minority-owned businesses, but it would also set an important example for creating equity in all future statewide projects as the Commonwealth works to reverse years of discrimination and practices that left many minority businesses out in the cold.


BECMA was founded, in part, as a response to the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s Color of Wealth in Boston report and similar research that shined a light on the ever-increasing wealth gap between Boston’s Black and white families. Our mission, therefore, is to advance the economic well being of Black businesses, organizations that serve the Black community, and Black residents of Massachusetts. We fulfill this mission by convening solutions-oriented conversations, advocating for the adoption of best practices, and connecting our business members to opportunities in the public and private sectors, as well as to one another.


According to 2012 U.S. Census data, more than 20,000 Black-owned businesses earn over $1 billion annually and pay out over $350 million in payroll to employ 12,000 Massachusetts residents, helping to keep our unemployment rate well below the national average (MA=2.9%; US=3.5% as of Nov. 2019). It is clear, then, that the success of Black businesses is paramount to the long-term economic health of, not just Black communities, but the Commonwealth overall.


That’s why we were disturbed to read just two weeks ago a report from WGBH News that provided a general framework for why, after two decades, the levels of minority participation in state contracting has remained at paltry levels. Diversity and inclusion have, for too long, been a recommendation rather than a regulation. S.2403 is a step in the right direction of trying to redress this persistent issue by setting clear goals, establishing equity at all levels of this project, and creating oversight and accountability measures that will ensure we do not repeat the mistakes of the past.


We at BECMA -- our Board of Directors in particular -- are grateful to Sen. Collins and his staff who have repeatedly met with us and other important stakeholders from communities of color to hear the concerns of our members, identify solutions, and reflect that understanding in the final version of S.2403. His team has worked hard to ensure we are adopting successful solutions like the Massport Model and applying that standard where it matters most. In particular, we note the following:


  • Section 4, which prioritizes the participation of minority-owned businesses and other marginalized groups in ALL phases of the project; establishes a supplier diversity program specific to the BCEC project; sets clear and attainable goals; matches workforce goals and programming to that of the City of Boston; creates a training program to increase participation; and establishes an oversight committee that grants a seat at the table for practitioners and advocacy groups to provide needed accountability that does not exist for other state projects.


We also note that this bill goes much further, including language for the disposition of the Hynes Convention Center. It would be an incredible leap forward if this committee were to apply the same diversity language for the BCEC expansion in Section 6, allowing for minority and other participation in an equally important project. This would further solidify the Commonwealth’s commitment to establishing fair participation in transformative projects.


The passage of this bill will set us on a new and better course. Black businesses locate in Black neighborhoods, hire Black people, and reinvest in those same communities. Public contracts are key to stabilizing small businesses and helping them expand. This allows them to hire more people at better wages with benefits – thus helping to reduce the racial wealth gap – and it also increases their contribution to the state economy. Every public dollar spent should be an investment in our collective future.


Where the executive branch has been slow to adopt this proven model to expand access to opportunities for businesses owned by people of color, this committee and the larger legislative body can be leaders on this issue and ensure that the Commonwealth is truly committed to equity beyond just principle, but finally also in practice. I know that diversity, equity, and inclusion are priorities for the honorable members of this committee. And so I urge you to report S.2403 favorably out of this committee. Thank you for your consideration.



CC:


Senator Barry Finegold

Vice Chair


Representative Sean Garballey

Vice Chair

© 2020 Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, Inc.

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