POLITICS

How Ohio Set A New Record For Minority Business Engagement

A goal 35 years in the making.

WASHINGTON -- Ohio announced last week that it had for the first time surpassed the state's goal for minority business engagement. For the fiscal year that ended in June, state data showed that 19.4 percent of government business was done with certified minority-owned businesses.

The goal of 15 percent was initially put in place 35 years ago, and backed by Gov. John Kasich (R), who was a young legislator at the time. 

“For far too long, Ohio has failed to live up to expectations that were set into law,” Kasich, a 2016 Republican presidential candidate, said Thursday in a statement. “By making this a priority, we are now able to help more small businesses from all backgrounds take part in our state’s economic success. That is reason to celebrate.”

The announcement garnered praise from some Democratic state legislators.

“It’s really simple. It works like this: When you do something right and you do something good, then all of that party and political stuff is set aside and you focus on the results and the actions,” said state Rep. Kevin Boyce (D-Columbus) at a Thursday news conference. Kasich is widely viewed as more moderate than many of his fellow GOP hopefuls in the 2016 presidential field, a fact that could hinder his chances in the party primaries, but help him in a general election. 

Overall, Ohio spent $228.5 million on contracts with minority-owned businesses last year. That's over $60 million more than the state spent on such contracts in 2014, a year that also set a record for spending through the state's Minority Business Enterprise Program.  

Exceeding the goal of 15 percent required a multiyear effort carried out by a variety of state agencies, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. This included building minority contracting goals into annual purchasing forecasts, meeting regularly to assess progress, and setting aside more than 17 percent of state contracts specifically for minority-owned businesses to bid on.

The state also established Minority Business Assistance Centers, where companies could get precleared to bid on state contracts. In 2013, there were 207 MBE companies doing business with Ohio government agencies; in 2015, there were 315.