Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos Wednesday convened a committee of 19 civic and business leaders to seek ways to boost the share of county contracts that go to minority- and women-owned businesses.

Creation of the panel followed recent county studies showing that the hiring of such firms has declined over the past five years, putting the county at risk of missing out on state and federal funding for public projects.

At the committee's first meeting in Mineola Wednesday, Maragos said he hoped to more than double the proportion of minority- and women-owned businesses contracted and subcontracted by the county, to 16 percent over the next 12 months.

"We believe that working proactively and transparently with community representatives is the best way to increase," participation among minority- and women-owned businesses, Maragos said.

A comptroller's study in March found that such businesses accounted for 7.35 percent of the county's contractual spending in 2014, compared with a high of 16.97 percent in 2010.

The county legislature's nonpartisan Office of Budget Review said in April that Nassau's contractual spending had increased from $466 million in 2012 to $503 million in 2014 -- but that the proportion awarded to minority- and women-owned firms dropped from 11 percent to 9 percent.

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Both reports said the declining numbers could put the county at risk of losing out on federal and state funding for projects that require local governments to hire a certain percentage of minority- and women-owned contractors.

New York State directs 20 to 25 percent of its contractual spending to minority- and women-owned business, according to the reports.

The new committee, which includes minority and women business owners, lawyers and chambers of commerce representatives, will get monthly briefings on county contracts available for bid so panel members can help alert eligible businesses.

The panel also will review complaints from firms that believe they were unfairly denied opportunities for county contracts, and will track the hiring of such firms and whether the companies are meeting their contractual obligations.

In recent months, the administration of County Executive Ed Mangano has increased outreach to minority- and women-owned businesses. The administration hosted a conference in Woodbury last month to inform the firms of opportunities.

"This is a positive start to making change in the county and turning those numbers around," said Phil Andrews, president of the Freeport-based African American Long Island Chamber of Commerce, and a member of Maragos' panel.