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Columbus Launching Disparity Study Of Minority-Owned Business Contracts

Jan 31, 2017

Steve Francis is Columbus' chief diversity officer
Credit columbus.gov

The City of Columbus is launching a study to determine whether minority- and women-owned businesses are getting their fair share of municipal contracts. 

The move comes after some businesses complained about discrimination. The city has not conducted such a study in at least 15 years, but the law requires Columbus to conduct one to support any contract targets it sets in the future. Minority- and women-owned businesses received 8.6 percent of municipal contracts in 2015. City Council member Shannon Hardin sponsored legislation approved on Monday that will pay 435 thousand dollars to Mason Tillman Associates to conduct the study.

"This disparity study will study procurement to determine whether there is disparity between the availability of minority- and women-owned businesses and the city's utilization of those businesses.  to make sure that minority- and women owned businesses are receiving their share of city work, we need a strong evidence-based foundation.  Community partners such as the NAACP have offered top help the city to reach out and inform businesses about the disparity study."

Columbus' chief diversity officer, Steve Francis, says the study will take a year to complete.

"There is a timeline that spans over a roughly 12-month period.  That's part of the things we will review with the community when we have a forum describing the process.  But it doesn't tell analysis of city contracting patterns and trends, and also interviews with several business owners in a variety of different types of business pursuits and industries to determine availability, true availability to match that with the demographics."

Sanjay Dudaney is a spokesperson for Halcyon Solutions, an I-T consulting firm that does business with several state agencies. He welcomes the Columbus study.

"We are minority certified by the state of Ohio, and we are also a small disadvantaged business certified by the federal government.  But unfortunately, we haven't had any luck doing any work with the city of Columbus."

Columbus last year expanded the legal definition of a minority-owned business from those owned by blacks to include other groups such as Latinos, Asians and Native Americans. The Columbus chapter of the NAACP sought the study after the change. But the group says the study will not determine whether businesses owned by members of other minority groups were victims of discrimination prior to the definition change.