September 2010 Authority Spotlight – Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY)

Please describe DASNY’s approach to diversity:

DASNY is dedicated to enhancing diversity in every aspect of its business - - working not only with its contractors, vendors and business partners, but also managing and developing its own workforce.

DASNY’s approach to inclusion is probably unique because of my past experience as a leading advocate in the legal community and in 100 Black Men of America for expanding opportunities in business for professionals of color.  I began to implement changes at DASNY and in its culture from virtually my first day of service, including diversifying senior management, our legal staff and recruiting the first African-American Managing Director to the Authority.   At DASNY, our commitment to diversity has led to extraordinary results. For instance, in the 18 month period after I became president, fees paid to MWBE underwriters jumped from 4% to 24%. That percentage is still climbing!

Yet numbers don’t tell the whole story. Walk through the Authority’s New York City Office and you see a mosaic of staff hailing from all over the world. Indians, Guyanese, Dominicans, Haitians, Poles, Germans, Chinese, Koreans, African Americans and Puerto Ricans all work together side by side.

Central to DASNY’s philosophy on diversity is the notion that drawing from a broad range of qualified firms isn’t simply an act of altruism or merely meeting a set goal. The cornerstone of the Authority’s diversity “belief system” is that inclusion is good public policy and good for business. To that end, DASNY’s historic designation of MR Beal as sole lead underwriter on a $1.3 billion dollar bond issuance was based on merit and the same set of standards by which any underwriting firm is measured. In addition, strategic partnerships between majority owned and MWBE firms are nurtured and encouraged. DASNY’s internal audit for the current fiscal year is being completed by just such a partnership, between KPMG and MWBE firm TCBA Watson Rice.

DASNY’s approach to diversity has evolved during the toughest economic times since the Great Depression. Yet leveling the playing field for MWBE firms has provided opportunities for minority and women-owned firms to expand even during the current downturn.

What sets your supplier diversity program apart?

DASNY’s Opportunity Programs Group (OPG) has a dual mission:  first, to develop and implement contract compliance programs - to make sure the companies we do business with follow the rules while we foster programs to encourage an ever-growing number of capable MWBE and small businesses  to qualify and apply for state procurements.  Secondly, OPG makes it clear to all potential and existing vendors that DASNY wants to do  business with firms that demand diversity; firms that have a demonstrated history of hiring, training, developing, promoting and retaining minority group members and women.

DASNY’s commitment to diversity dates back to 1971 with the establishment of its Affirmative Action Program.  That commitment has continued to grow with the creation of the Opportunity Programs Group, focused on construction and commodities procurements.  In 2008 DASNY expanded the scope of OPG to include Financial and Professional Services.  These efforts extend to non-traditional sectors in supplier diversity such as Investment Banking, Commercial Banking, Legal Services, Financial Advisory, Accounting, Broker-Dealer, Real Estate and Risk Management and Insurance.

DASNY exceeded its goal for MWSBE utilization in construction and commodities in 2009, with more than 23% of contracts awarded to MWSBE firms. This translated into more than $219 million being spent with MWSBE firms across the State.  Bond underwriting has already shown impressive growth for MWSBE firms and all new procurements, including legal and professional services, incorporate EO 10 Task Force-recommended reforms.  We expect to see the significant and steady growth of MWSBE participation in all areas of our business.

How long has DASNY been a corporate partner of CUP’s and why does your organization value this relationship?

DASNY’s relationship with CUP dates back to June of 2008 when Governor David Paterson signed Executive Order 10, creating a Task Force to increase the utilization of MWBE underwriting firms in State procurements.  Members of the CUP Board were very eager to get involved in the work of the EO10 Task Force.  In July of 2009 CUP co-sponsored a very successful Plan Sponsors Panel along with the E.O. 10 Task Force and the Minority Business Development Agency entitled “Supporting Diversity in Government Contracting of Asset Managers and Broker Dealers”. This event was a huge success with over 250 minority and women professionals in the areas of investment banking, broker dealers and asset management in attendance.

CUP was also instrumental in building support for New York’s 2010 Business Diversification Act; a law that was a direct result of the EO 10 Task Force’s final recommendations.

CUP’s support of DASNY initiatives and its thriving membership base of minority and women professionals has been an important asset for DASNY as we work to encourage more MWSBE firms to create business relationships with not only us, but other state agencies and authorities.

How do you think CUP will have the greatest impact?

CUP’s continued advocacy for minority and women owned businesses in New York State is an indispensible asset for MWSBE firms that need a clear, focused voice to speak to State leaders as they consider the economic policies for New York’s future.  A continued demand for policies which are sensitive to the specific needs of our state’s MWBE and small businesses makes CUP a significant catalyst for change that will ultimately benefit our communities and future generations of New Yorkers.