MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - New efforts are taking place to end discrimination against Mid-South women and minority business owners.
These efforts come just weeks after it was revealed those owners were not getting a fair shake for Memphis and Shelby County contracts.
"We mean business about women and minority-owned business," Mayor Jim Strickland said.
Strickland called it shameful that not only are women and minority-owned businesses not receiving their fair share of city business, the numbers have actually been going in the wrong direction.
"In 2015, it was 12 percent. In 2014, it was 14 percent. We need to do better than that," Strickland said.
That is why he announced Monday that he hired Joann Massey as the city's new director of minority and women-owned business development.
He also combined the Office of Contract and the Office of Resource and Enterprise under Massey's direction.
"She has a proven professional track record," Strickland said.
"I am personally committed to improving and to doing better," Massey said.
In order to make that happen, she said her team will streamline processes for businesses to get certified with the city and her team will be less passive and more active.
"Building a team that is actually going to get out of our offices, get into the community and actually meet with business owners where they are," Massey said.
She knows she has her work cut out for her, but Massey said according to her census bureau, there are close to 40,000 women and minority-owned businesses in Memphis.
"That's a lot of business and that's a lot of opportunity," Massey said.
Strickland said fulfilling a promise he made during his campaign of increasing women and minority-owned business contracts will not happen overnight.
"I can't promise you in the next 30 days there will be an increase in that 12 percent. But, you know, over the next year or so, you'll see some changes," Strickland said.
Ultimately, Massey said she's here to make sure anyone who wants to do business with the city is afforded that chance.