How the MTA meets its diverse contracting goals in the era of COVID-19

Michael Garner, the MTA’s chief diversity officer, discusses how the agency’s minority- and women-owned business program has met the challenges of the pandemic in an interview with City & State.

New York state in fiscal year 2021 paid an unprecedented $3 billion to the state certified minority- and women-owned business enterprises (MWBEs). And the state exceeded its own MWBE official utilization rate goal of 30%. 

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority represented 30% of all payments made by the state that fiscal year, which turned out to be the most of any state agency totaling $916 million and reaching a 31% utilization rate. 

Now, the MTA is looking for a repeat of its MWBE contracting rate in this current fiscal year. City & State caught up with Michael Garner, the MTA’s chief diversity officer, to find out how the agency was able to award so many contracts, how COVID-19 impacted the process and what the prospects look like for future MWBEs.

First off, how did the MTA award so many MWBE contracts in fiscal year 2021?

The reason why we were able to do that is that our diversity and MWBE programs are aligned with the governor’s program. The MTA acting chairman and soon-to-be chairman Janno Lieber, and the MTA board, holds my staff of 80 people accountable for not only assisting the MTA in awarding contracts in a cost-effective manner because it’s taxpayers money being spent, but in an inclusive manner. And that means that if there are any impediments in the process, that is incumbent upon me and my staff to identify them, come up with solutions so we can once again award contracts and spend dollars in an inclusive manner. We’re focused on solutions and not blinded by problems. 

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