Disparity report reflects gaps with Memphis businesses - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Disparity report reflects gaps with Memphis businesses

(SOURCE: WMC Action News 5) (SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)
(SOURCE: WMC Action News 5) (SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)

A new study reported minority and women-owned businesses in Memphis are not getting enough city contracts.

Memphis City Council took up the matter on Tuesday and discussed ways to change it.

The study looked at city contracts between 2010 and 2014. It compared how many went to businesses owned by women and minorities and how many went to businesses owned by white men.

Griffin & Strong conducted the Disparity Study and said the findings revealed the difference in contracts awarded to minority and women businesses as opposed to white male owned businesses is problematic in a city where African-Americans make up two-thirds of the population and women make up more than half.

"The basic findings were that there continue to be barriers that impact the ability of minority and women businesses to do effective business with the City of Memphis," Rodney Strong, Griffin & Strong, said.

In some categories, the study found minority and women business enterprises (MWBE) barely received 20 contracts from the city.

Memphis does much better, however, on sub-contracts. In some categories, MWBE's received more than half of available contracts when it came to sub-contracts. However, subcontracts tend to be less money.

"These are difficult problems that took a long time to develop over time, and so the fact that they're somewhat intractable doesn't surprise me," Strong said.

Strong said a lot of cities have discovered similar problems. But, City Councilman Edmund Ford Jr. said plenty of cities have found a way to address the problems as well.

"You look at other cities, such as Houston, which have about 22 to 25 percent MWBE participation. We shouldn't have to reinvent the wheel here," Ford Jr. said.

Strong's study recommended the city make a spending plan so MWBE's have a chance to identify opportunities.

Councilman Ford said past councils have talked about making improvements, but little has changed over the decades. He believes this study will bring about real change this time.

"It's very disappointing, but we've got a new council now," Ford Jr. said.

Mayor Jim Strickland made MWBE's a priority and appointed a director of Minority and Women Owned Business Development for the city to address the disparity.

In fact, the mayor has touted how his efforts have increased MWBE contracts by more than 12 percent this year.

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