Minority-owned businesses have historically faced disadvantages in obtaining the capital, knowledge and market access needed to grow and create jobs. Senate Bill 53, now pending in the state Legislature, recognizes those disadvantages, as well as the disproportionate economic harm that minority-owned businesses have suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation will improve the access of minority-owned businesses when seeking contracts with state and local governments.
That access will be key to New Mexico’s economic recovery from the pandemic. Minority-owned businesses added most of the new jobs in the last U.S. economic recovery, research shows. Senate Bill 53 is part of a package of legislation proposed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to get New Mexico’s economy back on track. The measure, sponsored by Sen. Bill O’Neill, D-Albuquerque, will amend the state Procurement Code, which governs most public spending in New Mexico.
Each year, state agencies, local governments, school districts and other public entities spend billions of dollars on purchases of goods and services. Under current law, New Mexico resident businesses and veteran-owned resident businesses have preferences when seeking state and local government contracts. Senate Bill 53 will extend those preferences to businesses owned by women and Hispanics, African Americans or Blacks, Native Americans and other minorities.
While some minority- and women-owned businesses have been able to qualify for the current bidding preference for New Mexico resident businesses, many Native American-owned businesses have not because they are located on tribal land. Senate Bill 53 will remove that obstacle, allowing Native American-owned businesses to qualify regardless of their location within the state.
Senate Bill 53 also will allow state and local governments to award contracts for goods and services to only New Mexico companies. An important caveat: A government entity will still have the option of seeking bids or proposals from businesses both inside and outside New Mexico if it believes that is in the best interest of taxpayers.
Because of the reporting and certifications required for the current and new bidding preferences, government entities will be able for the first time to track the amount of their contracting dollars flowing to minority- and women-owned businesses, as well as businesses with their principal locations on tribal lands. That tracking will be important in measuring the success of Senate Bill 53.
New Mexico’s economy has been one of the hardest hit by business closures over the past year due to the pandemic, but there is early evidence of a recovery from the economic pain. Data released in January show the state is among the nation’s leaders in business reopenings. We shouldn’t be surprised by that. New Mexicans are a resilient people.
We need to maintain the momentum of the last few months. Working together we will rebuild the state’s economy. And with Senate Bill 53 and the aid it provides to our businesses, we will build a better New Mexico.
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