Study: Minority owners receive less than 15 percent of SCS contract dollars

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Shelby County Schools has set new goals after a study it initiated found minorities and women receive less than 15 percent of contract dollars over the past five years.

This study came at the request of SCS, knowing it needed to provide equality when it comes to awarding contract bids.

The only way to change the disparity, SCS said, was to prove the issue was there.

The 129-page study analyzed SCS contracts between 2011 and 2016, breaking each contract down by the business owner's race and gender.

What the study found was an imbalance between contracts awarded to white men over minority and women owned firms.

A fact that didn't shock Jeremiah Watson of Innovated Engineering Services.

"I'm not really surprised mainly because Shelby County Schools doesn't have a diversity program that really requires that when they put out a project or contract saying that we need this percentage of women owned and minority owned businesses," he said.

Of the nearly $671 million spent by SCS between those 5 years, only $99 million were given to minority and women on businesses.

Watson started his engineering firm in 2009 as a one-man shop. It's since expanded, though, Watson said it's tough for minority and women owned businesses like his to compete with larger firms.

"Most of us are small businesses with a limited amount of resources. Maybe our prices might be a little bit more, not always the case, but might be for certain scenarios," he said.

Watson added SCS keeps a list of qualified vendors it calls upon for work-- his firm is on the list.

"So we are on the list but we've never been called up on the list," he said.

For now, Watson applauds the forward thinking of the district to provide more balance.

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