The businesswoman was denied the opportunity to work on the Bills Stadium project, rejected as a minority or business owner

HAMBURG, NY (WIVB) – Construction continues on the new Bills Stadium on Abbott Road. Meanwhile, minority and women-owned companies are hoping for an opportunity to get involved in the project.

But one owner says even though she’s a woman who owns a business, the state says she doesn’t fit the mold.

Lauren Chmielowiec’s mother co-ran Upstate Steel with her father for decades. The Hamburg-based company was certified by the State of New York as a “Women-Owned Business Enterprise” for almost 20 years.

But that all changed in 2017 when Chmielowiec took over. Empire State Development, which oversees the state’s Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise program, declined to recertify the company as a WBE.

“Throughout my career I have been scrutinized. I think I was scrutinized more than any other man and had to prove my knowledge, technical ability, expertise and experience,” said Chmielowiec. “It is extremely disappointing to have to do it now after being in this business and an owner for over 20 years.”

Chmielowiec said she is now losing her job because she lost her certification. State law requires projects to use a variety of minority or women-owned companies — including the new Bills Stadium project, which will require 30 percent of the construction work to be carried out by MWBEs.

“Every day, every week I get several emails and phone calls asking me to bid on works because they require WBE participation and I have to tell them I would like to bid but the WBE cannot meet requirements,” Chmielowiec said.

In a statement, a spokesman for Empire State Development said it would not comment on individual application decisions based on confidential business information of the applicant companies, but each application would be “thoroughly evaluated based on the requirements and criteria set forth in state regulations.”

Chmielowiec has appealed the state’s decision. She has now scheduled a hearing for November but does not know when a decision will be made.

“I think women need to speak up and want more in terms of their positions in this industry,” Chmielowiec said. “It all starts with being your own lawyer.”

Marlee Tuskes is a presenter and reporter and has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. You can find more of her work here and Follow her on Twitter.

Tom Vazquez

Tom Vazquez is a USTimeToday U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Tom Vazquez joined USTimeToday in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with Tom Vazquez by emailing

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