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Chattanooga seeks to boost MWBE participation in light of disparity study results


TN News - Published Nov 25, 2020

The City of Chattanooga is considering an array of potential changes to the ways public contracting operates, over the short-term and the long-term, in order to utilize minority- and woman-owned businesses (MWBEs) at a rate that reflects their capacity in the city. A recent disparity study commissioned by the City showed just 5.2 percent utilization of MWBEs in prime contracts, relative to higher availability across all categories of contrcts, during fiscal years 2014 through 2018.

The study, delivered in 2019, showed 32.59 percent availability of MWBEs in construction, as well as 10.12 percent for professional services, 20.35 percent for other services, 15.38 percent for A&E, and 12.29 percent for goods. The City does not currently track utilization rates for subcontractor, so their utilization could not be compared against availability. 

The statistically significant underutilization found across many categories of contracting has resulted in a number of remedies being reviewed by Chattanooga. These include: beefing up the City's reciprocal certification capabilities; doing more vendor outreach through events and website upgrades; putting prompt-payment language into prime contractor agreements to ensure that MWBE subcontractors do not languish without payment; gathering more data on contracting; track subcontractor utilization data and setting goals based on the data; and unbundling larger contracts to make procurement more accessible to smaller businesses.

"We're looking to develop strategic plans that will allow [MWBEs[ to be woven into what we do on a daily basis," City Deputy Administrator Tony Sammons said in a statement.

Read Chattanooga's 2019 MWBE disparity study at http://www.chattanooga.gov/general-services-files/purchasing/Chattanooga%20Final%20Disparity%20Study%20Report-200424.1Submitted%20%281%29.pdf.