Program Aims To Hire Minority, Women Businesses

Jim Harger, The Grand Rapids Press, MLive.com, Aug. 25

Arnaldo Rodriguez thinks his chances of doing business with the city of Grand Rapids are getting better.

Rodriguez, who owns Technical Personnel Services Inc. of Middleville, recently attended a workshop in which city officials spelled out their new Equal Business Opportunity program aimed at hiring more small businesses owned by women and minorities.

“This is an opportunity for us,” said Rodriguez, whose 23-year-old firm supplies engineering and technical support personnel.

Under the new program, minority-owned firms who submit bids for goods and services to the city can be awarded bid discounts of up to 5 percent. Majority vendors can win similar discounts by partnering with minority firms.

Businesses owned by women can get bid discounts of up to 3 percent if they submit bids or partner with majority vendors.

Ingrid Scott-Weekley, the city’s equal opportunity director, said she hopes more of the 6,000 companies that sell goods and services to the city will take advantage of the new program.

The city is hosting another workshop to explain the new program 9 a.m. to noon Friday in the ninth-floor commission chambers of City Hall, 300 Monroe Ave. NW.

CDs and videos of the presentation also will be available later, she said.

The new bid discount program was designed to conform to recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions that mandated equal opportunity programs be race neutral. As a result, the city can no longer use quotas to ensure minority participation.

The new program marks the first time the city has attempted to bring minorities into its purchase of goods and services. Previous programs concentrated only on minority participation in construction projects.

“This is a goal program. It’s a whole new way of thinking about goods and services,” Scott-Weekley said.

Though Rodriguez has never done work for the city before, he is optimistic about his chances under the new program.

“I really want this program to work,” said Rodriguez, who said he has been disappointed by other government incentives to improve minority participation.

“I just hope everyone involved works together to make it work,” he said. “They’re committed to trying to make it go. Only time will tell.”

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