The Montclair Township Council anticipates approving a Diversity Inclusion Program Tuesday night, to encourage contract awards for equipment, construction or services from qualified minority-, veteran-, disabled persons-, LGBTQ- and female-owned businesses.

A previous ordinance created Montclair’s Business Set-Aside Program in 1988, and had set a township goal of 15% for minority-owned business participation in township contracts for purchases, and 7% for female-owned business participation.

The new law sets an annual goal of 20% overall for purchases of products and services from businesses that are minority-, women-, veteran-, disabled persons- and/or LGBTQ-owned. 

The ordinance was first presented at the May 17 council meeting, but was tabled over concerns that businesses owned by disabled people were not included, as well as concerns about that version’s registry process.

Councilman David Cummings, who penned the ordinance and was concerned with postponement of the first reading on May 17, said that the township would be “putting a lot of money out to bid” over the next few months and those bids should include procurement from a diverse group of vendors.

“My concern is that if we do not pass this we go back to the previous set-aside that does not include the LGBTQ community and essentially only allows minority-owned business, women, Black, Hispanic and Portuguese, which is in that ordinance,” Cummings said at the May 17 meeting. 

The new ordinance also expands the law to define minority-owned businesses as those owned by Black, Hispanic, Portuguese, Asian-American, American Indian or Alaskan descents.

At the May meeting, Councilman Peter Yacobellis asked council members to put off the vote, saying he received notices that day from the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, the New Jersey Pride Chamber of Commerce and the township’s People with Disabilities Advisory Committee asking that they hold off to make adjustments.

The version of the ordinance Cummings proposed would have required that businesses be registered with the township. 

The amended version — which now includes businesses owned by disbaled people among the groups it seeks to include, and which tweaks the registry process — was introduced on first reading at a June 13 Township Council Conference meeting. The council is scheduled to hold a second reading and final vote June 21.

In order to be considered, a business must have its principal place of business in New Jersey and be independently owned and operated. Fifty-one percent of the business must be owned and operated by minority, veteran, disababled, LGBTQ or female individuals.. 

The executive director of the New Jersey Pride Chamber of Commerce, Augusto "Gus" Penaranda, on May 17 asked the council to postpone the vote until New Jersey publishes a list of LGBTQ-owned businesses enterprises, as it’s instructed to do under Gov. Phil Murphy’s Executive Order 295.

That order, which Murphy signed in May, instructs the New Jersey Department of the Treasury to establish a state-backed certification program for LGBTQ-owned business enterprises, and to make the list available to the public.

Yacobellis didn’t have a timeframe on when the list would be available and said that businesses could instead submit certifications from other, national registries.

In the amended ordinance, businesses still have to register with the township’s affirmative action officer, by providing certifications from the State of New Jersey attesting to their ownership by members of diverse groups. If such a certification does not exist for a particular diversity business structure, certification from a New Jersey State or nationally recognized registry can be submitted.

LGBTQ-owned businesses, for instance, can submit proof of its business listing with the National LGBT Chamber. The affirmative action officer will maintain a list of businesses that have registered with the township, to be updated annually.

Yacobellis had advocated for increasing the number from 20%, but said that the ordinance will at least get “this going” and could be revisited later.