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Cincinnati To Fix Contract Disparities Among Minority And Women-Owned Businesses

City of Cincinnati

Cincinnati Council has endorsed remedies to make sure the city does a better job awarding contracts to African-American and women-owned businesses. 

A recent study finds such awards from 2009 to 2013 were limited.

Council Member Wendell Young says the findings are important.

"From today on, we find out whether we have the political will, whether we have the ability, whether we have the skill," Young says. "And whether the work we will do can truly make a difference."

Companies bidding on big city contracts for construction and professional services will be required to meet goals for awarding subcontracts to minority and female owned businesses. 

Council Member Christopher Smitherman says it's not about handouts.

"Nobody here in the 21st century is looking for a handout," Smitherman says. "This is not about affirmative action. This is about a level playing field."

City officials and others say improving minority contracting levels will benefit the entire city economy.

In a statement, Director Department of Economic Inclusion Thomas Corey says improving minority contracting levels at City Hall will benefit the entire Cincinnati economy as a whole.

“This is about more than diversifying public contracting," Corey says. "We have a chance to build businesses and create jobs in demographic segments of the city that need them.”

Cincinnati says the study finds:

Although Cincinnati’s population is almost one-half African-American, only 2.7 percent of city contracts – totaling $4.9 million -- were awarded to African-American owned companies in the year before Mayor Cranley took office. The percentage of contracts going to women-owned businesses wasn’t much better, at 6.2 percent. The Disparity Study recommended the City of Cincinnati establish the following subcontracting goals: 17% Construction (African-American) 10% Construction (White Female) 14% Professional Services (African-American) 16% Professional Services (White Female) Also, the Disparity Study makes recommendations to improve the numbers including: Breaking a larger number of big contracts into smaller ones to make it easier for small businesses to bid on them; Setting specific goals for big companies when it comes to awarding subcontracts to women- and minority-owned companies based on the number of companies available to do the work; and Giving extra consideration to big companies if they work to reduce the unemployment rate among black residents by providing entry-level on-the-job training, job shadowing and other opportunities.

California-based Mason Tillman Associates conducted the study. It included a review of the city's procurement process for construction, professional services, and supplies and services contracts over a five-year period, from Jan. 1, 2009 to Dec. 31, 2013.

Jay Hanselman brings more than 10 years experience as a news anchor and reporter to 91.7 WVXU. He came to WVXU from WNKU, where he hosted the local broadcast of All Things Considered. Hanselman has been recognized for his reporting by the Kentucky AP Broadcasters Association, the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and the Ohio AP Broadcasters.