Philadelphia Business Journal – The real numbers behind diversity in government contracting (Opinion)

Philadelphia Business Journal
The real numbers behind diversity in government contracting
By Malik Majeed, Guest Columnist
November 19, 2018

I had the pleasure recently of attending a news conference presented by members of Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration regarding progress in making Pennsylvania’s contracting process more inclusive of small and small diverse businesses.

Pennsylvania’s Secretary of General Services Curt Topper noted small diverse businesses continue to face barriers in government contracting. In fact, he called the data “eye-opening.” He noted the administration took steps in 2015 to even the playing field and the portion of contract funding awarded to small diverse businesses increased 35 percent over the past year.

I applaud these officials for their efforts – and the numbers are certainly better under Gov. Wolf; however, we need to look beyond the numbers to understand what that actually means for Pennsylvania.  As indicated at the news conference, studies were performed to look at the disparities between the percentage of contract dollars the Department of General Services (DGS) and PennDOT spent with different groups of minority businesses, and the percentage of contract dollars those businesses would be expected to receive based on their availability to perform specific types of contracts.

Out of the $10.8 billion in DGS contracts, $85.9 million, or 4.5 percent, went to small, diverse businesses. Of the $12.5 billion spent in PennDOT contracting, $1.4 billion, or 11.5 percent, went to certified disadvantaged business enterprises or to diverse businesses. While there has been a significant increase over the last few years, the very low participation percentages indicate the state has a long way to go in leveling the playing field to providing minority contracting opportunities.

PRWT has been growing over the years and has not been considered a small business for some time. As a result, PRWT does not fall into the “small diverse” category, however, our leadership knows African-American- and Hispanic-owned businesses across the state are doing everything they can to compete for contracts. In some cases, African-American and Hispanic business owners have been placed at a disadvantage in the pool of small,  diverse businesses because some of the businesses they are competing against are operated by families, and those family members have the option of deciding “who owns the business,” i.e., the husband or wife, thereby taking advantage of being able to create a small diverse business by putting the wife in as the majority owner and head of the company. According to Philadelphia’s Office of Economic Opportunity, women-owned businesses historically have received 17.3 percent of the total economic opportunity contract dollars compared to 13.8 percent for minority-owned companies.  African-Americans and Hispanics don’t have the option of choosing which category to place themselves. They are simply African-American or Hispanic.

PRWT Services, Inc. Celebrates 30 Years

PRWT Services, Inc. Celebrates 30 Years
Company leaders and staff joined together to recognize decades of commitment and professionalism

PRWT Services, Inc. recently had the great honor of celebrating its 30th Anniversary and joining with staff and company leaders to recognize three decades of achievements and successes.

The memorable event was led in Philadelphia by executive leaders who have helped shape what has become a nationally-recognized company since it started in 1988. These leaders included Malik Majeed, CEO, PRWT Services Inc., and U.S. Facilities Inc., Willie Johnson, Founder and Chairman, of PRWT, and Jim Dobrowolski, President, of U.S. Facilities Inc.

According to Majeed, Willie Johnson fostered the concept that at the end of the day, we don’t just come to work for us and our families, we come to work for the communities in which we live and work. 

“Willie was able to take that dream and passion of his and actually turn it into a business – a nationally recognized business that has been around for 30 years,” said Majeed.

“It’s a proud moment to reflect on where we came from and where we’re at today, but more importantly where we’re going, because we have tremendous opportunity. The next 10 years are going to be really exciting,” said Dobrowolski.

Many employees who attended the event, some who have been with the company for 20 years, had the opportunity to reflect back on all their positive experiences working at PRWT.

Crystal Carter, a PRWT employee of 19 years, said she has watched the company grow over the years and hopes it continues to branch out.

Employees in Philadelphia and PRWT satellite offices also received awards based on their length of tenure with the company.

Watch the excitement from our leaders and employees at the 30th Anniversary recognition event.

Al Dia News – Largest minority-owned company in Philadelphia restores community center in Puerto Rico

Al Dia News
Largest minority-owned company in Philadelphia restores community center in Puerto Rico
By Emily Neil
July 17, 2018

Philly-based PRWT worked on the ground to make the recovery from Hurricane Maria a little easier for Puerto Ricans in the town of Guayama.

Across the island, private and public sector companies and organizations have worked to restore Puerto Rico’s facilities to full power after Hurricane Maria’s landfall on September 20, 2017. Even as the island draws closer to the one-year anniversary of one of the worst natural disasters in United States history, and confronts what may come in the new hurricane season that has already begun, many of Puerto Rico’s facilities are still not yet fully restored.

But in the town of Guayama, the Salvation Army Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center is close to being completely restored and has served as an essential resource for the surrounding community throughout their recovery thanks to the efforts of Philly’s largest minority-owned company, PRWT, which has managed the center through its U.S. Facilities division in 2017. Founded in 1988, PRWT is focused on providing business process solutions, document processing, and facilities management and infrastructure support services.

PRWT employees worked to have the building back up and running by early October, just weeks after Maria hit the island. The center itself proved vital in the months after Hurricane Maria devastated the island, as volunteers and members of the Salvation Army team that worked there were able to give out meals and provide phone service, as well as a cool place to stay, for community members suffering from the effects of the hurricane.

Over the following weeks and months, Joe Rivera, a PRWT/U.S. Facilities project manager who oversaw the recovery efforts, made multiple trips back to Philadelphia to get all of the necessary parts for the generator, many of which weren’t available on the island. After each trip back to the mainland he returned with “suitcases full of equipment” so that he would have the parts and tools needed to do the job on the ground in Guayama.

After just two months, PRWT employees had also restored the wifi connection, allowing many people to be able to come to the center to access and use the internet. PRWT and U.S. facilities employees also were able to have the center’s pools restored by February of this past year.

As of the end of May, Rivera said that they were 80 to 90 percent finished and plan to be back at pre-Maria capacity by late July.

Rivera said that for himself and the other PRWT/ U.S. Facilities workers, it was a chance to “bring our experience and speed the process up” by boosting the center financially and bringing their knowledge to the table.

“A lot of the things we do are not seen. In the end we did as much as we could to help out and we continued to,” said Rivera. “We went where other companies may not have been able to go to.”

PRWT isn’t the only private sector company or nonprofit organization who has stepped up to fill a void left by government support in the post-Maria recovery process. FEMA aid has been slow in coming, and much less has gone to Puerto Rico in the wake of one of the island’s worst natural disasters than other locations in the U.S. who have suffered recent natural disasters. Nine days after the respective disasters, FEMA had approved just $6.2 million in individual assistance aid to Puerto Rico for recovery from Hurricane Maria, compared to the $141.8 million for victims of Hurricane Harvey.

According to an internal assessment released by FEMA last Thursday, the agency admitted that its response to Hurricane Maria, and was marked by “severe personnel shortages, difficulties coordinating relief logistics, a lack of basic aid supplies, and a lack of local preparation, among other shortcomings,” reported Buzzfeed News.