DRWC pledges to spend about $1 million annually with women- and minority-owned businesses

The Delaware River Waterfront Corporation aims to purchase about $1.05 million worth of goods and services from minority and women-owned businesses this fiscal year.

DRWC set that goal and other related objectives when it adopted a new equal opportunity program at its last meeting.

The $1.05 million represents a goal of spending between 25 and 30 percent of the organizations discretionary budget with minority and women-owned companies. (The organization’s entire operating budget is about $7 million, but half of that money is earmarked for institutional costs, such as salaries, utilities, etc.)

DRWC set this goal and others with the help of the Urban Affairs Coalition. President and CEO Sharmain Matlock-Turner and her staff interviewed DRWC staff and board members and looked at current practices and many documents to help establish the goals, she said.  Matlock-Turner said the mandate she got was clear: DRWC wants to be a leader in inclusive practices.

In addition to its operating budget, DRWC also spends about $10 million each year on capital projects. The new plan calls for establishing individual equal opportunity programs for each project.

The DRWC will establish a committee to oversee the inclusion plan, and make suggestions annually to the board on how it might be improved.

No plan can succeed without proper monitoring, Matlock-Turner said. And the board agreed to monitor progress, with the UAC’s help, each quarter.

DRWC Board Chairman Donn Scott reminded the board of their very first meeting, after Mayor Michael Nutter dissolved the beleaguered Penn’s Landing Corporation and created the DRWC as its replacement. “We talked about the need to have a commitment to diversity,” he said. “It has taken us a couple of years to get there, but I think the plan that we put forth today accomplishes many of the goals the board is committed to.”

DRWC Vice President Joe Forkin, who stayed with the organization after the transition from Penn’s Landing to DRWC, said the old organization had minority and women participation goals, but nothing like this.

“Back then, we took a lead from the city,” and piggybacked off the city’s plan. With this new plan, DRWC’s goals will at least meet city goals, but will also be tailored to DRWC projects specifically.

Matlock-Turner suggested that DRWC expand its definition of minority and women-led businesses to include both large and small businesses – in other words, diversity is about more than economic disadvantage.

Forkin said that some small businesses that are minority or women-owned have not gone through an official certification process. And non-profits are never certified.

The new plan will allow DRWC to get some credit for working with such businesses and non-profits, he said. While it won’t count toward the official goal, if DRWC has interviewed the owner or non-profit leader, it can note in its quarterly report that it also worked with those minority or women led, but uncertified, entities.

Contact the reporter at kgates@planphilly.com

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