Essex County Freeholders Pass Legislation to Support Minority-Owned, Women-Owned and Veteran-Owned Businesses

Credits: Natalie Heard Hackett

NEWARK, NJ – New legislation has been enacted by the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders designed to increase economic opportunity for women-owned, minority-owned, and veteran-owned businesses, county officials announced.

During the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders on Wednesday, the board unanimously passed an ordinance that they hope will redefine economic inclusion in Essex County. 

Ordinance O-2017-00005, is sponsored by Freeholder President Britnee N. Timberlake, At-Large Freeholders Lebby C. Jones, and Rufus I. Johnson and establishes a set-aside and joint venture program to increase economic opportunity for women-owned, minority-owned, and veteran-owned businesses.

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According to the release, the set-asides are in the areas of goods and services, nonprofessional services, and professional services, while establishing a “Joint Venture” program for construction contracts.

County officials maintain that the Joint Venture method has been successful in other communities, such as Atlanta, Ga.

County officials hope that this new ordinance will help minority-owned, women-owned and veteran-owned businesses to become more competitive in the bid process. The challenge for many companies is for them to obtain “bonding” since it involves having large amounts of cash on hand not committed to use. This law states that the bond must be assigned to the joint venture formed and thus opens access to major construction contract participation for MBEs, WBEs, and VOBs.

President Timberlake shared remarks during the meeting, stating, “On average, women in the U.S.A. make twenty cents less on the dollar than men; contracting more women-owned businesses can help close that gap. There are plenty of qualified, ready, and able minority-owned companies who can do the work but face passive discriminatory policies limiting access to capital. This legislation can improve such conditions and offer economic opportunity. Furthermore, our veterans had our back, and now this law mandates we have theirs by making an effort to support their businesses.”



3-Year 2014-2016 Average Contract Spend

Projected Average Contract Spend by the year 2020









Freeholder Lebby Jones said, “This law was a long time coming, and it undergirds entrepreneurs who need the support by offering an opportunity for their businesses to grow and create more jobs.”

A review of Essex County’s 2014, 2015, and 2016 reports from the Office of Small Business Development and Affirmative Action revealed the County’s total average “spend” on contracts was 33% for Small Business Enterprises (SBEs), but only 6% for Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs), 9% for Women Business Enterprises (WBEs), and .16% for Veteran Owned Businesses(VOBs). The Board’s goal, embodied in this law, is to increasethe average “spend” to 33% for SBEs, 27% for MBEs, 25% for WBEs, and 15% for VOBs by the year 2020.

Freeholder Johnson added, “This is about spurring economic development opportunities for companies that have been historically overlooked, disregarded, and systematically abused nationwide.”

Assemblyman Thomas P. Giblin was present and expressed his support for the Board and his commitment to duplicating this law at the State level, something Assembly Speaker Emeritus Sheila Y. Oliver and Senator Ronald L. Rice are also in support. LeRoy J. Jones, Jr., Chairman of the Essex County Democratic Committee, congratulated President Timberlake on her “steady hand of leadership” and commended the Board as a whole and the Administration for this “hand up, not a hand out.”

Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, Jr., reflected on the law, stating, “The Set-Aside and Joint Venture Ordinance adopted by the Freeholders displays our continued commitment to promoting opportunities for small, minority, woman and veteran owned companies to obtain contracts to do business with Essex County. Essex was the first – and is still the only county in New Jersey – to conduct a Disparity Study, and this new ordinance will provide us with additional tools to offer opportunities to a more diverse group of vendors who reflect our county’s population.”

Clarence Jackson, Commander of the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 3 in Newark, applauded this initiative  encouraging Veteran entrepreneurship and said, “I look forward to getting the word out about this new ordinance.”

Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, Executive Director of New Jersey Citizen Action, added, “NJCA, commends Freeholder President Britnee Timberlake and the Freeholders for implementing this law, which ensures that historically overlooked women, minority, and veteran-owned small businesses are fairly represented among county contractors. The Freeholders are leading the way with initiatives that focus on fixing specific and documented economic disparities in Essex County.”

Marcia Marley, President of BlueWaveNJ, also offered support, stating, “BWNJ endorses the spirit of this ordinance and believes it is a step in the right direction needed to correct the discrimination against minority and women-owned businesses.”

Businesses interested in Essex County bid opportunities referred to in this new ordinance should register as an NJ State Certified MBE, WBE, or VOB. Registration applications and guidelines can be accessed through the State of New Jersey Business Portal website Businesses must also register with Essex County to automatically be informed of and apply for opportunities with the County.

As stated on, "once registered, vendors can download current opportunity documentation, stay up to date with the purchasing process, and track past awards." 


For more help or information, please contact the following: 

• New Jersey State Business Action Center, (866)-534-7789,

• Essex County Department of Administration and Finance Office of Purchasing, (973)-621-5100,,;

• Essex County Small Business Development and Affirmative Action Department, (973)-621-7958,


A free non-mandatory State Contracts and Competitive Purchasing Workshop will also be held on August 17, 2017,from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM at McLoone's Boathouse located at 9 Cherry Lane in West Orange. To register, use the following link:


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