A bill calling for the collection of data on businesses owned by women and minorities has moved to the House floor, but the head of the agency charged with collecting the data says the allocated funding isn't enough.

The House Workforce Services and Community and Economic Development Standing Committee on Tuesday gave a favorable recommendation of HB236.

Rep. Mark Wheatley, D-Murray, told committee members he and Senate sponsor Curt Bramble, R-Provo, are committed to funding the data collection, which would be an optional step in applying for or renewing a business license.

However, after the meeting, Francine Gianni, executive director of the Department of Commerce, said the fiscal note of $50,000 for the first year, and $30,000 for the second year falls short of the $127,390 her agency estimated. She said the agency would also need $30,000 to store an estimated 375,000 new records.

"We'd have to reprogram our licensing system, reprogram our imaging system . . . it's a nightmare," Gianni said.

Wheatley said the bill is needed because the state currently relies on census data that's nine years old and on independent surveys. Reporting would be optional.

"We are asking you to provide a snap shot, if you will, of two very large and growing segments of the Utah economy," Wheatley said. "By knowing where they are today, we can create a history of where they've been and can use our data to better manage resources."

Rep. Peggy Wallace, R-West Jordan, questioned the agency selected to track the data and moved to hold the bill in committee. It was suggested that perhaps the Office of Ethnic Affairs, or State Tax Commission might be a better match. That motion was voted down after Wheatley explained that he had already met with the heads of various agencies to "hammer out their concerns."

Barbara Reeves, small business liaison for the University of Utah, said having such data readily accessible would make it easier to meet requirements for federal grants that require contracting with women- or minority-owned businesses.

That was the case she said when she recently applied for a federal research contract — $16.5 million in the first year. Part of the grant requirement included finding a minority business to contract with.

"We got it by the skin of our teeth," she said. "Had I not had 25 years experience in the minority community in Utah, we probably would have lost that contract. . . . we really really need this."


E-mail: dbulkeley@desnews.com