City-funded study examines disparities in contracts with minority businesses

Friday, July 1, 2022 by Samuel Stark

A disparities study to examine the effectiveness of Austin’s women’s and minority-owned business procurement program found it to be largely successful. But while the program — intended to create more opportunities for minority and women-owned businesses — has been successful, the study also found that in Austin, women- and women-owned businesses minorities still face difficulties.

The study of disparitieswhich was launched after City Council approved a resolution in early 2020, was led by Colette Holt & Associates and ran for two years.

“Looking at the hard data and having an outside consultant look at your program (and) say it works really well – I think that was one of the big takeaways for me,” Edward Campos, Director of Austin Small and Minority Resources. Department, told the Austin Monitor. “That certainly doesn’t mean we’re done with conquering all the disparities that exist,” he added.

The study looked at Austin contract data from 2013 to 2018. The researchers randomly selected 1,069 contracts from all available municipal contracts and ultimately included 1,002 contracts in their analysis. Examples of these types of contracts would be agreements between the city and construction, architecture and engineering companies.

“While the city’s program (minority and women-owned businesses) has been successful in creating opportunities for minority and women-owned businesses, these benefits have not been distributed evenly across all groups or sub-industries. We find that the data as a whole supports the conclusion that minority and women’s businesses have not achieved parity in all aspects of the city’s local contracting activities relative to (white male-owned businesses)” , concluded the study.

Another aspect of the project involved researchers going into the community and interviewing minority women and business owners about the specific challenges they face. Campos said the researchers found that “access to capital, access to bonding, and access to insurance…all of those things that have plagued our minority and women-owned businesses, unfortunately. , are still in play”.

To address some of the concerning findings, the consultant published some key recommendations. These recommendations, along with the findings of the study, will be shared with the public and the Small Business and Small Business Procurement Program Advisory Committee for further comment. Campos and his team will present recommendations for improving the program and ways to reduce trade disparities to City Council for adoption later this year.

The first iteration of the current Women and Minority Business Procurement Program was established by the City Council in 1987 with the aim of reducing discrimination and promoting equal access to contracting opportunities. Since the original program was created, it has been reviewed and revised many times. The city tries to organize a disparities study to examine the effectiveness of the program every five years.

Photo made available via a Creative Commons License.

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