The City of Austin (“City”) is conducting a Disparity Study of its Minority- Women-owned Business Enterprise (“M/WBE”) and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (“DBE”) programs to ensure that M/W/DBEs have equal access to contracting opportunities and that the City’s current programs remain legally defensible and administratively successful.
A disparity study involves compilation of evidence to determine whether the City has a strong basis for implementing race- and gender-conscious contracting remedies for its locally-funded contracts, and narrowly tailoring its M/W/DBE programs. This includes statistical evidence of disparities, if any, between the availability of M/WBEs and their utilization on locally-funded contracts and related subcontracts and throughout the Austin economy as a whole.
The study will further examine factors necessary for entrepreneurial success, such as access to business capital, bonding, networks, suppliers and other resources. The study also will gather anecdotal evidence of any continuing effects of past or present race and sex discrimination, and the impact of the current M/W/DBE programs. Finally, the study will review the City’s current programs and activities and make recommendations for future initiatives and enhancements.
The contract for this study has been awarded to Colette Holt & Associates (“CHA”), a nationally recognized expert team on disparity studies and M/WBE programs, in conjunction with local partners Cultural Strategies, Inc., Pink Consulting and Adisa Public Relations, Inc.
How can business owners and other interested parties be involved? The participation of stakeholders and business owners is critical to the study’s outcomes in two important ways.
First, the study team will contact businesses to confirm information on specific contracts and/or to receive additional contract information that is currently not available or accessible to the City. Like most government agencies, the City has not collected all the types of specialized contracting records necessary for the study, so the consultant must rely on prime firms to supplement missing data. This information is critical to developing an accurate analysis of the utilization of M/W/DBEs on City projects. With the support and assistance of business owners, the study will present a complete picture of the City’s contracting activities. Some firms will be contacted to provide such data. CHA will work with the firms to make the process as easy as possible.
Second, we will conduct business owner/stakeholder small group interviews; these sessions are designed for participants to share experiences and insights in doing business with the City and barriers to obtaining work in the greater Austin economy. CHA will also administer an electronic survey to collect additional information. The information generated from these data collection methods will be an important component of the analysis of whether the M/WBE and DBE programs remain narrowly tailored. To learn about sessions pertinent to your business or organization, please email CHA at firstname.lastname@example.org. We also welcome written submissions or other evidence.