Office of Small Business Development and Affirmative Action
Hall of Records, Room 449A
Tel: 973-621-2010 Fax: 973-621-2009
Director: Deborah E. Collins, Esq.
Essex County Small Business Resource Center and Reference Library
The mandate of the Essex County Office of Small Business Development and Affirmative Action is to ensure equal opportunity and fair play in contracting, procurement, and employment within the County of Essex.
In 2002 before entering his first term in office, Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. established an Affirmative Action Committee as part of his 200-member Transition Team. When he took office on January 1, 2003, he created the Office of Cultural Diversity and Affirmative Action. The volunteer members from the Transition Team’s Affirmative Action Committee remained involved with the DiVincenzo administration as an Advisory Committee for the Office of Cultural Diversity and Affirmative Action.
As the County Executive decided that more needed to be done to promote equal opportunities for access to the County’s procurement system, a Disparity Study Commission was appointed. A consultant was retained to conduct public hearings, examine records and provide recommendations.
The findings were presented to the public in October 2005 at the conclusion of an eight-month study. It resulted in the December opening of the Office of Small Business Development and Economic Opportunity, designed to help the County make their public contracting and procurement policies and procedures more available to small, woman, and minority-owned businesses. Deborah E. Collins, Esq. was appointed Small Business Development and Economic Opportunity Officer in December 2005.
In October 2007, the County Executive appointed Ms. Collins Executive Director of the Economic Development Corporation of Essex County and Affirmative Action Officer for the County. The appointment resulted in the creation of the Office of Small Business Development and Affirmative Action (“SBDAA”). The Economic Development Corporation of Essex County (“EDC”) is a non-profit corporation that offers eligible business owners micro loans from $5,000.00 to $100,000. For more information, please call (973) 621-4454.
Each quarter, the SBDAA presents a report to the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders documenting its outreach efforts and purchasing activity among its target population. At the end of the year, the SBDAA presents an annual report summarizing the year-end results.
In the first annual report published in December 2006, the County awarded $14,977,087.80 to small, woman, and minority contractors through greater access to information and more opportunity to bid on goods and services. This figure represents 10.3 % of the $145 million that the County spent on private contracts in total.
The Office of Small Business Development and Affirmative Action issued its second annual report in December 2007. The County of Essex awarded $32,456,141.74 to small, woman, and minority vendors, or 20.3 % of the private contracts awarded for that period. This double digit growth in overall contracting activity is directly attributable to the marked increase in the size and number of construction contract awards that these vendors have received to date.
A year and a half after the Office opened, the County also unveiled a new Vendor Registration System. Essex was the first county in New Jersey to implement a system of this caliber. Later, in 2009, the County launched a purchasing portal to enable vendors to receive email or telefax notifications of upcoming business opportunities. The portal can be accessed at http://www.essex-countynj.org/procure/
In 2009, the County of Essex awarded $31,838,918.45 or 22.04%% of all contracts to small, woman, and minority business owners. Specifically, minority business owners received 4.26%; women received 7.58%; and small business owners received 14.52%.
Since its opening, the SBDAA has reached out to the community of small, women and minority business owners through a variety of business expos. The events include the Essex County Procurement Expo, the Women’s Business Enterprise Procurement Expo, Reaching New Heights – Professional Services Procurement Expo, “Meet the Municipal Purchasing Agents,” and “Partnering for Opportunity and Access to Capital” in January 2008. Essex now maintains one of the largest and most current rosters of small, woman and minority business owners in the State, with over 1,528 registrants.
In November of 2009, the County became the first in the State to launch a Bonding Readiness Program offering vendors the opportunity to become bonded or increase their bonding limits. To date, 51 business owners have completed the educational component of the program and 12 have become bondable or bonded. To register for upcoming sessions of the Essex County Bonding Readiness Program, please call (973) 621-5420. The program will run through October, 2011.