New EOB Policys Data Is Mixed

February 11, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — Data released by the city’s Equal Opportunity Department shows an increase in recruitment of, but not necessarily participation of, minority- and women-owned businesses in the city’s goods and services procurement process since the new Equal Business Opportunity (EBO) policy went into effect last August.

The policy, which is free of race and gender requirements, replaced a 20-year-old, quota-based policy that once focused exclusively on construction projects but was later expanded to include goods and services contracts.

The current policy’s goal is to promote inclusiveness in the procurement process by increasing participation among minority and women businesses enterprises (MWBE) without use of a mandate.

The baseline data, collected from Aug. 2 to Dec. 31 last year, establishes benchmarks for future comparison that will allow the Equal Opportunity Department to gauge the new policy’s effectiveness over time.

Equal Opportunity Director Ingrid Scott Weekly pointed out Tuesday that the early results are “modest” given that only five months’ worth of data has been collected thus far.

Laurie Parks, an MWBE developer with the Office of Supplier Diversity, said the city’s goods and services team has been actively recruiting MWBE vendors through various outreach activities to encourage their participation.

“Wherever we go, we’re talking about this program, meeting with vendors, encouraging them to do business with the city, providing them with information and linking them to our Web site,” she said.

Since the new policy and guidelines were adopted, the city has increased the number of “qualified as certified” MWBEs by 97 percent — from 76 to 149 — according to Tom Almonte, also an MWBE developer. Of the 73 new qualified-as-certified companies, 52 were MBEs and 21 were WBEs, reflecting an increase of 89 percent and 125 percent, respectively. Almonte said the program has been growing at the rate of about 15 new minority- and women-owned businesses per month.

Participating MWBEs have to be certified by one of five designated agencies. They then can apply to qualify with the city, which makes them eligible for EBO bid discounts. From August through December, 40 MWBEs applied and 27 received bid discounts.

Between Sept. 13 and Dec. 31, purchasing department staff issued 1,425 invitations to bid, of which 169 went to MBEs and 103 went to WBEs.

The city received 223 total requests for bid packets. Of the 169 MBEs, 16 actually submitted bids and 16 of 103 WBEs submitted bids. MBEs subsequently were awarded six contracts and WBEs two contracts out of a total of 89 awarded.

“Those are the numbers we’re trying to increase,” Scott-Weekly said.     

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