Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown.(Photo by Mark Gail/For The Washington Post)

Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D) on Wednesday proposed that Maryland seek voluntary agreements with private insurance companies regulated by the state in which the companies would set goals for use of minority-owned businesses for goods and services.

The strategy is part of broader plan issued by Brown, a candidate for governor this year, to further promote the use of minority- and women-owned firms in Maryland. While the focus is largely on procurement by state government, Brown is also seeking to leverage the state’s position to expand private-sector use of the targeted firms.

Maryland has employed a similar tactic already with state-regulated utilities, prompting more than 20 companies to sign agreements setting goals, according to Brown aides.

“Minority businesses can’t grow through public contracting alone, so we’ve entered into partnerships with 20 different private sector firms who share our goals of supporting minority- and women-owned businesses,” Brown says in the introduction to his plan.

His opponents in the June Democratic primary include Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) and Del. Heather R. Mizeur (D-Montgomery). While all three have issued an array of policy proposals, Brown was the first to put forward a plan devoted to minority contracting.

Among the other steps proposed by Brown: creation of a mentor program in which larger minority-owned contractors could provide assistance to smaller ones; and an expanded role for the Governor’s Office of Minority Affairs.