African American Chamber of Commerce of NJ Responds to State’s Disparity Study


Photo of John Harmon courtesy of African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey.

By African American Chamber of Commerce of NJ/AC JosepH Media

TRENTON — The African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey (AACCNJ) responds to the release of the Murphy Administration’s Disparity Study. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion oversaw the effort, which was the first study of its kind to be commissioned by the State since 2003. It was conducted by Mason Tillman Associates, LTD.

“On behalf of the 1.2 million black residents and over 88,000 black owned businesses in the state of New Jersey, the announcement of the completion of the disparity study, is the news that we have been patiently awaiting and have prepared our hearts and minds to receive”, said John E. Harmon, Sr., IOM., Founder, President & CEO, AACCNJ. “Acknowledgement is an essential step to establishing the proper pathway to a credible coexistence. Today’s announcement serves as confirmation of what we all knew, and we are eagerly looking forward to a focused strategic alignment with the Murphy Administration.

“This study speaks to the intolerance for equitable participation in taxpayer funded opportunities resulting in wide social and economic disparities that cannot be glossed over,” Harmon continued. “It is incumbent on this administration, and the legislature, to not try to appease Black and Brown People with well-crafted conciliatory statements given the magnitude of harm we have been dealt with over the years. As I read through the pages of the Disparity Study it is difficult for me to conclude that there was not a greater degree of awareness, which should have led our leaders to figure out how they could have procured more opportunities to make our state more equitable, while we awaited the completion of the Mason Tillman Study. There were substantial gains for contract awardees and elected officials since 2015 and the economic benefits for Blacks and Brown people in our state have not been reciprocated. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey completed its disparity study in 2017 with results that were almost identical. Herein, a lost opportunity to apply best practices to really produce a Stronger and Fairer Economy.

“We just celebrated in the past week, what would have been the 95th birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His powerful words have even greater significance today,” remarked Harmon. He then quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Montgomery, Ala. August 11, 1957, “An individual has not started living fully until they can rise above the narrow confines of individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of humanity. Every person must decide, at some point, whether they will walk in the light of creative altruism, or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”

Harmon resumed, “As we move forward, we plan to work in partnership with the State to put forth best practices that will provide the constituency of the AACCNJ, and others, with consistent access to opportunities and resources that they can leverage to strengthen their enterprises and ideals while mitigating past underperformance. Our mutual goal henceforth is to have a more equitable participation in every area of the public sector wherein economic opportunities exist.

“We put forth a call to action for your continued support of the AACCNJ, so that we may continue to advocate for a more equitable share of the state’s balance sheet, we have been a leading voice in the advocacy for the completion of this disparity study since our inception in 2007,” said Harmon. “We now claim a seat at the table to ensure that reciprocity, and recompense become a reality with what Dr. King called, “the fierce urgency of now,” on behalf of our constituents and the beloved community. Let us combat selfishness, which is self-destructive behavior, not providing opportunities for those with the capabilities to contribute to the success of the state; let us embark on a new chapter of authentic and transparent, collective collaboration.”

Background and Timeline

December 23, 2020 — “The Department of the Treasury announced several key initiatives on Wednesday that will advance the Murphy Administration’s commitment to ensuring Minority-, Women-, and Veteran-Owned Businesses (MWVOB) can more fully participate in New Jersey’s multi-billion-dollar supply chain.1

“Chief among these initiatives is the commissioning of the first disparity study in 20 years to measure current spend data, which is viewed as key to identifying and opening up new opportunities for MWVOBs to contract with the State of New Jersey to provide goods and services. The disparity study has been a priority for the Murphy Administration from day one.”2

“This disparity study is not only long overdue, it is an integral part of our vision for a stronger, fairer, and more resilient, post-COVID economy that opens doors for diverse businesses to play a greater role in shaping our state’s future,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “This study will provide us with an opportunity to create a more equitable business environment, which is a win for us all.”3

“Recognizing how long it has been since the last study was conducted, we tried to ensure that this new study will capture as much data as possible, beyond just statistics that are available on our spend, but also including outreach to stakeholders and community groups as well,” said Treasurer Muoio. “This will give us the tools and the information necessary to determine where our strengths and weaknesses lie so we can implement more equitable procurement strategies moving forward. The state has a vast supply chain of goods, commodities, and professional and financial services and in a truly equitable society every qualified vendor in our state should have the opportunity to participate in the economy fueled by their tax dollars.”4

The goal, as laid out in the bid solicitation, is to research, structure, and conduct a comprehensive and legally defensible disparity study of the State’s contract awards in construction, goods, and services over a five year period (July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2020) to determine whether there is a disparity between the number of qualified minority, women, and veteran-owned businesses ready, willing, and able to perform services, and the number of vendors/contractors actually engaged to perform such services. The Disparity Study will include a review of contracts for construction, goods, commodities, and services and shall be appropriately structured so that the state may, if appropriate, use the information to fashion race- and/or gender-neutral, and if necessary, race- and gender-conscious methods of achieving those goals for state contracts and employment by state vendors.5

The State of New Jersey held a series of virtual business community meetings on September 20, 21, and 22, 2021 regarding its disparity study. AACCNJ’s member organizations participated in the meetings conducted by Mason Tillman Associates.

January 9, 2023 — “In spite of so many challenges, black businesses continue as the fastest-growing business segment of our country, so we remain very hopeful. With 94% of the black vote going to Governor Murphy in his last statewide election, we look forward to learning more about the tangible actions he will take in the second half of his final term to help level the playing field for all of us, said John E. Harmon, Sr. “Notably, we eagerly anticipate the announcement and projected timeline on a statewide Disparity Study that will further identify barriers and inequalities within our communities and take them head on.

“These times remind me of words that were expressed by the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy,” stated John E. Harmon, Sr. “We are now in those times once again and the optimal outcomes can be realized when the rules of engagement are clearly defined, and the playing field is available to all to compete effectively with value being the declared goal. In conclusion, the data in this study confirms that Black people are still at the bottom.”





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