A public contracting disparity study performed for the City of Asheville has found substantial disparities in the city's contracting awards between 2012 and 2017. Out of $118 million in contract dollars awarded during that period, only about $12 million - or 10.4 percent - went to businesses owned by minority- and women-owned businesses (MWBEs).
The study determined that the proportion of city contracts being awarded to MWBEs represented a meaningful underutilization of businesses given the availability of MWBEs in the Ashville area. The report contends that 12.8 percent of the contracts could have been awarded to such businesses, going by capacity.
The large majority of contracts within that 10.4 percent went to businesses owned by white women, in addition, leaving businesses owned by minorities showing greater disparities. For some categories of business, the utilization rate was far below the 80 percent threshold demonstrating disparity: businesses owned by Native Americans had 2 percent utilization rate, businesses owned by Asian Americans had a 5 percent utilization rate, and black-owned businesses had a 22 percent utilization rate. The full disparity study is not available, but its findings were presented to the Asheville City Council recently.
To rectify the contracting disparities, the study recommends that the city take steps to improve the utilization of MWBEs in procurement by revising the participation goals set on contracts to address the utilization disparities found, ensuring prompt payment is made to subcontractors as well as contractors, and setting better contract notification systems in place.