Contact:

Lt. Governor: Armen Meyer, 518-258-1338
Insurance: David Neustadt, 212-480-5265, 347-723-1145

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
February 15, 2008

LT. GOVERNOR AND SUPERINTENDENT OF INSURANCE STRENGTHEN BOND ACCESS PROGRAM FOR MINORITY- AND WOMEN-OWNED BUSINESSES

Additional Resources Committed; Four Upstate Regions Now Included

Minority- and women-owned businesses throughout New York State will get a better chance to compete for contracts on both commercial and public projects as a result of a new pilot program announced today by Lt. Governor David A. Paterson and Insurance Superintendent Eric Dinallo. The new program substantially expands a previous plan to help businesses in obtaining the surety bonds they require to compete for government and private construction work. The new program has been expanded to include not only New York City, but also Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester and Albany. The number of businesses that can be served has been increased and there is now continuing oversight to ensure the program is effective.

“The equal treatment of all groups is a priority at every level of this Administration,” said Lt. Governor Paterson. “Minority and women entrepreneurs have not been given a fair shake at the opportunity to do business with the State. This additional access to borrowed capital will help New York get back on track by supporting businesses that are vital to New York’s communities and overall economic growth.”

“For too long, women and minority business owners have been held back from participating in state projects and other large undertakings because they had difficulty getting the necessary surety bonds,” Dinallo said. “I am pleased to announce a new program to help change that. The New York State Bonding Initiative will open up new opportunities and give these business owners the chance to tackle more and larger projects, to grow their businesses, to create jobs and foster economic development all across this state.”

“I commend the Superintendent for his efforts to increase the ability of Minority and Women owned businesses to compete for contracts by helping them to obtain greater access to surety bonds, said Michael Jones-Bey, Executive Director for the New York State Division of Minority and Women’s Business Development. “Perhaps the most valuable aspect of the Superintendent’s involvement was that he focused the attention of the surety industry as a whole on the issue of access to bonding in New York State thus helped to recruit additional surety companies to participate.”

Jones-Bey continued, “This new collaboration between the Lt. Governor, the Superintendent of Insurance, the surety industry and other stakeholders represents a model for how government should work to solve longstanding problems. The creation of our new capital access pilot program together with this new bond access initiative will open up unprecedented opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses. I commend the Jamaica Business Resource Center, the Women Builders Council, the New York State Business Corporation, the Small Business Development Centers, and the Small Business Administration in helping to make this day possible.”

“The Board of Directors and members of The Surety & Fidelity Association of America (SFAA) are excited about the prospects of expanding bonding opportunities for small, minority- and women-owned contractors in New York State,” said Lynn Schubert, President, The Surety & Fidelity Association of America. “The memorandum of understanding (in PDF format) announced today represents an enhanced commitment on the part of SFAA member companies to aggressively service these contractors both through this new Bonding Initiative and through our members’ ordinary course of business.  We applaud the efforts of the Lieutenant Governor, the Insurance Superintendent, the New York State Division of Minority and Women’s Business Development and the Jamaica Business Resource Center in working with us to bring this effort to fruition.”

“The Jamaica Business Resource Center is enormously grateful to Lt. Governor David Paterson and Insurance Superintendent Eric Dinallo for their visionary leadership in assuring that minority- and women-owned businesses now have real access to bonding for their businesses,” said Timothy H. Marshall, President and CEO of the Jamaica Business Resource Center. “Historically, this has been a major inhibitor to success; therefore we are very pleased to work with Mr. Michael Jones-Bey, The Surety and Fidelity Association of America and the U.S. Department of Commerce in delivering a program that we believe will have positive and productive results for the M/WBE community.”

The New York State Bonding Initiative will to be conducted under the auspices of The Surety and Fidelity Association of America (SFAA) along with the Division of Minority and Women Business Development of the Empire State Development Corporation and the Jamaica Business Resource Center. It will vigorously promote increased access to and participation in individual insurer’s surety bonding programs. Unlike the previously announced program, the new program is open to as many small businesses as apply. Every contractor who successfully completes the program will be bond-eligible.

The new program includes:

The Initiative will be launched in New York City on February 21, with the upstate programs to begin in March.

“Owners will be offered training and assistance that will help them qualify for bonding, which in turn should increase their participation in commercial and public projects,” Dinallo explained. “This effort can assist all small businesses and can help attain the goals of New York State’s Minority and Women Business Enterprise (MWBE) Executive Leadership Council, which is seeking to improve the participation of minority- and women-owned businesses in the state’s procurement process.”

The announcement follows an Insurance Department fact-finding inquiry into current market conditions affecting access to adequate contract bonding for small businesses, including those that are women- or minority-owned, and the effect on their participation in the State’s procurement process. During the past several months, the Department met with representatives of all stakeholders in this issue, and conducted fact-finding meetings and comprehensive research into the nature and history of this unique niche of the insurance market.

“The discussions that led to this historic agreement demonstrate how industry and regulators can work together to provide solutions,” Dinallo said. “We have created a program that is much larger in scope than originally envisioned and which should significantly increase access to bonding for women and minority business enterprises. Being able to start and grow your own business is the American dream, and this program will bring it closer to reality for many worthy women and minority business owners. The Department will continue to review the issue and monitor the progress of the new program. We will do all we can to ensure its success.

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