The findings from a disparity study are in, and the city of St. Petersburg has some barriers to overcome.
The study, commissioned by the city, was designed to ensure local businesses owned by people of color and women get city contracts. The study shows the progress the city has made over the decades to work with minorities and areas in need of improvement.
Mason Tillman Associates Ltd. was awarded the contract to conduct the study in late 2018, and the official project started in January 2019. The consultants examined which disparities exist in the city’s utilization of qualified minority and women-owned enterprises (MWBEs) as contractors and subcontractors, through city procurement practices.
The findings were presented to the Committee of the Whole on Thursday.
The evidence indicates that the SBE program did not achieve parity in the award of prime contracts to Small Business Enterprise-certified M/WBE firms even when the analysis was limited to certified small businesses.
“After nearly 31 years in operation, the SBE program has been ineffective in achieving equitable participation for M/WBE prime contractors based on their availability in the city’s market area,” a line in the study read.
The study, which consisted of hundreds of pages, displayed charts indicating gaps of minority contractors being awarded contracts for certain types of projects.
“This is a tool to start to see where we need to make improvements with a strong legal grounding,” Council Member Darden Rice said.
“This presentation bothers me,” said Council Member Lisa Wheeler-Bowman, reflecting on how she personally feels she carries the weight of the community on her shoulders and that she has heard much public outcry over the years.
“I know it’s an issue we have to fix … like Rice said, we can’t let this sit on the shelf this time,” council member Bowman said.
The next step is for the St. Pete City Council to officially accept the report of the disparity study.
The consultant also presented remedies on how the city could address the issue, which includes:
- Applying discounts to construction prime contracts and goods and services contracts
- Set subcontracting goals for groups with a disparity
- Penalties assessed for failing to achieve M/WBE subcontract goals
- M/WBE program for city staff training
- M/WBE program for outreach and a marketing campaign
- Tracking and monitoring standards
- Financial assistance to M/WBEs