The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (System) promotes and supports the involvement of small diverse businesses in facilities projects contracts, at both the prime contract level and the subcontractor and supplier level.
For a number of years, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Department of General Services (DGS), and the System had a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) and Woman Business Enterprise (WBE) program. The DGS and System programs were based on the same concepts, but were administered slightly differently. For construction contracts, the System required prime bidders to "proactively solicit" written quotes from MBE/WBE for portions of the work. Quotes from MBE/WBE competed directly against quotes from majority firms, and if their quote was the lowest received, subcontracts or supply orders were to be awarded to MBE/WBE for that work. For design contracts and other Professional services contracts selected on technical merit, the System usually included in the evaluation and selection the proposers' utilization of MBE/WBE.
In recent years, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and DGS made changes to their program. A Small Business Initiative was started in July 2012. It set aside certain small procurements for small businesses. Additionally, Act 185 of 2012 was enacted, establishing a Veterans Business Enterprise and Service-Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise program. And, in 2013, DGS changed their MBE/WBE Program to a Small Diverse Business (SDB) Program, incorporating small businesses which are of the minority, woman, veteran, and service-disabled veteran categories. More recently, the Commonwealth added disability-owned businesses and LGBT businesses as SDB categories.
The System has expanded its program to incorporate SDBs. The proactive solicitation process during the bidding period has been retained, but it requires the solicitation of written quotes from SDBs, and not MBEs/WBEs. SDBs must be in the DGS database. The System may, in future years, re-evaluate the System's overall programs to determine if any revisions are needed.
From 2007 through 2011, CSO retained Clark Resources, a diversity consulting firm from Harrisburg, to work with the System to support MBE/WBE program efforts in construction. During the System-Clark working relationship, Clark prepared MBE/WBE Participation Reports, various other products, and an MBE/WBE database; they also participated in training events and several project diversity efforts. However, the contract with Clark was eventually curtailed due to budgetary reasons.