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St. Petersburg focuses on minority, women-owned businesses in disparity study

Margie Manning

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Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

The final phases are underway for a disparity study by the city of St. Petersburg, designed to ensure local businesses owned by people of color and women get city contracts.

Mason Tillman Associates, the company hired two years ago to conduct the disparity study, wants to hear from local business owners about their experiences making bids and proposals to the city, as well as working on city projects.

The disparity study is one of the city’s highest priorities, Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin told about 100 people who took part in an online meeting Monday to kick off this phase of the study.

“This is so critically important because it is a reflection of our effort and our commitment to be a city of opportunity where the sun shines on all,” Tomalin said, quoting part of the city’s vision statement.

The last study of this type was done in the late 1990s and resulted in the city’s Small Business Enterprises program, Mayor Rick Kriseman said during the virtual meeting.

“That study was good but we have spent a lot of time listening to the community, and what we have heard loud and clear is that it’s time to move forward and launch a new study. So I am eager for the process to continue,” Kriseman said.

Mason Tillman, an Oakland, California-based firm that’s completed 146 studies for cities and special districts nationwide, has been analyzing prime contracts awarded by the city between Oct. 1, 2014 and Sept. 30, 2018. The analysis focused on three sectors — construction, professional services such as architectural and engineering services, and goods and services — and classified the ownership of businesses that received contracts by gender and ethnicity.

Eleanor Mason Ramsey

A separate analysis, which looks at subcontracts awarded by prime contractors, is currently underway, said Eleanor Mason Ramsey, president and CEO of Mason Tillman.

The company also is looking at how many minority owned or women-owned businesses in the area potentially could bid on city contracts.

When completed, the study will determine if a statistical disparity exists in the award of the city’s contracts to ready, willing, and able market area minority and women business enterprises.

A key part of the study is community input or anecdotal analysis.

Much of that analysis will be conducted through an e-survey. Click here to access the survey. It will remain open for three weeks, said Nikki Gaskin-Capehart, director of urban affairs for the city.

“We’ve come a long way toward the completion of this disparity study. So many of us have been wanting to see this study done for many years,” Gaskin-Capehart said. “If your business has not completed the e-survey, please do so as soon as possible. And if you know of other businesses that need to complete the survey, encourage them to do so.”

Participants in Monday’s online meeting also got a tutorial on using the city’s procurement and supply management system and took part in a 45-minute question-and-answer session about the city’s contracting process.

Click here for more information about the disparity study process.

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    David Meyer

    September 25, 2021at4:04 pm

    It’s good to make sure there’s no discrimination in the awarding of contracts. The winner should always be the most qualified for the best price/value.

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