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Five percent goal met on minority-owned contracts for state agencies

For the first time ever, state government agencies have met their goal of giving at least 5 percent of their business to minority-owned contractors.

Of the $1.6 billion spent on state contracts last year, 5.9 percent went to companies in the Minority Business Enterprise program.

The 5 percent goal was first set 25 years ago, but it never met until now.

Administration Secretary Michael Morgan calls it a significant milestone.

Fourteen agencies met or exceeded the 5 percent goal. Minority firms had a dramatic increase in contracts for state buildings, roads, bridges and architectural and engineering services.

More than 1,200 firms are in the enterprise program.

The state can accept bids from those companies even if they're 5 percent higher than the competition.

In the new state budget, Gov. Jim Doyle wanted to make it easier for minority firms to be in the program, by reducing the required percentage of minority ownership from 51 percent to 30.

But the Joint Finance Committee refused to approve the change, after some minority business groups said it would put their members at a disadvantage.

Meanwhile, Doyle has accepted proposals from an advisory panel he formed in 2006 to help meet the minority contracting goal. Those steps are meant to improve accountability.