Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Affirmative Action programs are still alive and well in many parts of the U.S.

The question, in my mind, is, “should there be time limits to certifications?"

First, let me state clearly that I do not oppose Affirmative Action programs. Provided that they make sense. Some things about Affirmative Action programs make no sense at all to me. In particular, the idea – the rule, if you will, that a company can benefit from certifications FOREVER.

I believe it makes for good social policy to give new businesses a chance to get their legs, using certifications that allow new businesses to get bid preferences and, in some cases, to be the only ones entitled to participate in a bid procurement. Recognize, however, that this sort of social policy ends up driving up the cost of whatever is being purchased (generally speaking, to cost to the taxpayers), due to less competition.

The question, in my mind, is not whether there should be Affirmative Action programs, but whether they – I’m speaking of “certifications” a company can have – should be FOREVER. I don’t think that certifications should last forever.

There are a whole host of “certified” reprographics companies in the U.S. I’m speaking of reprographics companies who have MBE, DBE, WBE (and other similar) certifications.

MBE - Minority Business Enterprise

DBE – Disadvantaged Business Enterprise

WBE – Woman-owed Business Enterprise

There are many reprographics companies who benefit from being “certified” businesses under government-sponsored Affirmative Action programs. But, I’m only going to use, as an example, a reprographics company based in the Washington, DC area, one I’ve long been familiar with, since I’m originally from that area (and, my first company was HQ’d in that area.)

Premier Reprographics is, at this point, an 18 year-old company, having been founded in 1993. In spite of the fact that Premier Reprographics is an 18 year-old company – and a well-established, full service company at that - it still has an advantage over other non-certified reprographics companies who operate in Washington, DC market area – that “advantage” being that Premier continues to benefit, competition-wise, from its various Affirmative Action program “certifications”. Is this advantage fair to non-certified reprographics companies? I don’t think so.

Here, you can take a look at the various certifications Premier Reprographics benefits from, in spite of the fact that Premier has been in existence for 18 years:

At Premier Reprographics, Inc., we're proud to serve our clients as a full-service reprographics provider. To help our clients meet their set-aside goals, we maintain the following designations:

Small Business Administration -

SBA 8(a)

Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) with Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA)

Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) with Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA)

Local Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (LDBE) with Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA)

Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) with Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)

Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) and Disadvantage Business Enterprise (DBE) with Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT)

Our Mission: To serve the needs of our clients with a conscious commitment to quality that will project a positive and professional image of your efforts.

Since 1993, Premier Reprographics has set the standard for full-service reprographics services. To meet the needs of our clients, we offer large format imaging and copying in black and white and color, high speed digital copying, extensive finishing capabilities, and document management solutions. We have a strong commitment to superior customer service, attention to detail, and quality work that presents a positive, professional image of your efforts. As a result, we are able to serve our customers not just as a vendor, but as a trusted partner.

Premier Reprographics was incorporated in 1993 by Vickie Banks who serves as President and CEO. Vickie had several years of expertise in financial management and government contract negotiations prior to starting Premier. Vickie leads the Premier team in the areas business development, strategic planning, marketing, and cost estimating.

Premier Reprographics, Inc.

4701-A Eisenhower Avenue

Alexandria, VA 22304


Fax: 703.370.6614


Joel’s final comment about Affirmative Action programs and certifications:

Personally, I think that a company’s ability to benefit from “certifications” – WBE, DBE or MBE (or otherwise) should be limited to the first three years a company is in existence. After that, no certifications, no preferences of any type. There should also be a “size” (sales) limitation; once a company reaches a certain volume of business (sales), its certification is revoked.

I get very amused when I visit the web-sites of some of our industry’s larger companies and see that they still promote – and benefit from - their Affirmative-Action-based certifications, even after being in business for more than 75 years!

1 comment:

  1. How about we judge people by the content of their character ?
    How about we judge companies by their performance and value ?
    Set asides are simply discrimination born of the idea we can balance the
    books of history.

    Do we penalize Portugal for brining slaves to Brazil ?
    Do we penalize Spain for brining slaves to the Caribbean ?
    Do we penalize France for brining slaves to Haiti or Louisiana ?
    Do we penalize the Dutch for bringing slaves to New York ?

    How about we give every man and women, every nationality,
    Every life style orientation a equal chance to compete
    And let the best company win based on performance, quality and value ?
    This is the 21st century and there is no longer any place for affirmative action.
    Or so it seems to me.