MWBE report

GREENSBORO — The city needs to do a better job awarding contracts to minorities and women, according to a study on the Minority and Women’s Business Enterprise program.

On Tuesday, the City Council heard the results of a study on the program, which helps minority-owned businesses win city contracts.

The study found that minority and women-owned businesses are more likely to be denied bank loans than businesses owned by white men.

It also showed that, in general, being a minority contractor has “an adverse impact on securing public contracting and subcontracting opportunities relative to non-MWBEs.”

What’s more, the bulk of the city’s MWBE contracts go to white women.

“We find that a lot of those businesses are really headed by men,” said Councilwoman Sharon Hightower, who said a husband sometimes transfers 51 percent of the business to his wife to qualify.

She said the council should find a way to certify businesses.

City staffers will create a committee, which will report back to the City Council within three months.

Last year, the city hired Atlanta-based Griffin & Strong to look at the availability of minority-owned businesses and how often the city uses them.

Federal law requires disparity studies of such programs every five years to continue to operate. This one reviewed data from 2012 to 2016, and cost $300,000.

The consultants looked at data on minority and women contractors from a 24-county area in central North Carolina — including small counties like Hoke and Warren, and large counties such as Wake.

Councilman Justin Outling, noting the large geographic area, said the findings may not reflect the city of Greensboro’s practice in awarding contracts to minorities and women.

The report showed that the city is spending more money on minority contractors. But the percentage of minority contractors — as part of the whole — hasn’t risen.

It also showed that minority and women-owned businesses represent just 1 percent of building permits approved by the city.

African-American business owners perceive a culture of discrimination in Greensboro, and feel as though their participation in projects is unwanted, especially downtown, the study found. They also feel that white-owned businesses only hire minority subcontractors because they have to.

Consultants recommend establishing a policy to investigate possible discrimination.

They also recommend that city leaders beef up staffing in the MWBE program, because many of the problems happen because “no one is minding the store,” said Rodney Strong, one of the consultants.

Councilwoman Michelle Kennedy said until the city creates a culture of oversight within the program, “you will always see these types of discrimination.”

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Contact Margaret Moffett at 336-373-7031 and follow @MargaretMoffett on Twitter.

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