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Home » Business Diversity Subcabinet » Overview of the Washington State Business Diversity Subcabinet

Overview of the Washington State Business Diversity Subcabinet


Governor Inslee created the Washington State Business Diversity Subcabinet to increase access to contracting opportunities for small, minority-, women- and veteran-owned businesses with Washington state government.

Washington’s diversity is one of its greatest economic and cultural strengths, yet for good and services contracts and public works projects only 2.8 percent of the $5.7 billion that the state spends with the private sector is with small businesses owned by women, minorities or veterans.

At issue

Diversity in state contracting is good business and good for the state. We need to do better.

Why it matters

Ensuring these businesses have contracting opportunities gives Washington state government access to a wider array of business solutions, helps drive innovation and strengthens our economic growth. Successful small businesses led by minorities, women and veterans help make our economy and our families more resilient – strengthening our communities and improving the quality of life for all Washingtonians.

Our Action Plan

The Subcabinet is working to carry out a comprehensive action plan for sustainable results.

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Improve OMWBE Certification Process

The Office of Minority and Women’s Business Enterprises (OMWBE) continues to review its certification processes for small minority- and women-owned businesses and working to eliminate any unnecessary barriers and improve certification time frames. The agency implemented rule changes eliminating unnecessary requirements in August of 2017, began featuring online applications in October, and will conduct a Lean process improvement event in the winter to further streamline processes.

Measurement Framework

The state currently measures the percent of its spending with small minority-, women- and veteran-owned businesses. Two technical teams are tasked to develop a measurement framework that accurately tells the story of Washington State procurement to minority-, women-, and veteran-own business. OMWBE leads

Team 1, which is charged with recommending a dashboard of measures that provide a fuller picture of the state’s business diversity efforts. Team 2 is led by the Departments Labor and Industries (L&I) with participation from the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), the Department of Corrections (DOC), and the OMWBE. Team 2 is tasked with testing the measurement framework to evaluate the availability and integrity of the data used to inform the measures.

Technical Assistance

A subcabinet technical team is working to improve and develop new technical assistance to small businesses. This team includes participation from OMWBE, the Governor’s Office of Regulatory Innovation and Assistance, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Transportation (WSDOT).

Community of Practice

As a state, we need a strategic, coordinated approach to improve contracting opportunities for small, minority-, women- and veteran-owned businesses. A key element is establishing a “Community of Practice.” This network for state procurement professionals promotes learning and continuous

improvement to help refine procurement tools and processes and incorporates a common business philosophy and set of habits. We will use an agile approach that allows us to quickly pilot new tools based on individual agency successes and then work together to improve them.

Disparity Study

Washington is conducting a statewide disparity study that will provide valuable information about how well agencies are doing when it comes to including minority-, women- and veteran-owned businesses in state government contracts and purchasing. It will provide a factual foundation that state decision-makers can

use if disparities are identified – including potential remedies and tools agencies can employ to ensure contracting practices are fair and nondiscriminatory. The first of three phases of the study is complete. Study consultants will be gathering information from businesses through the spring of 2018.

Legal Clarification

The Subcabinet is reviewing a formal opinion from the state Attorney General regarding RCW 49.60.400 (state initiative I-200). The Subcabinet asked for the opinion to clarify:

Whether state law (I-200) prohibits state government from implementing race-/gender-conscious measures to address significant disparities in the public contracting sector that are documented in a disparity study if it is first determined that race-/gender-neutral measures will be insufficient to address those disparities.

Whether the answer to this question depends on if contracts are awarded by a state agency that receives federal funds and is therefore subject to Title VI of the federal Civil Rights Act.