City Sets Mandatory Goals for Hiring Minority- and Women-Owned Subcontractors

Chris Wetterich, Cincinnati Business Courier, September 30, 2015

In sweeping changes to Cincinnati’s contracting policies aimed at addressing discrimination, firms will have to hire a certain number of minority and women-owned businesses in order to get work with the city.

The Cincinnati City Council unanimously OK’d three pieces of legislation Wednesday aimed at addressing the city’s poor inclusion record, one that saw only 2.7 percent of city contracts going to black-owned contracts and 6.2 percent going to women-owned businesses in 2013. About 18 percent of the city’s businesses are black-owned, while 29.5 percent are women-owned, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Council voted to allow the city to set mandatory goals that go into effect Jan. 1 requiring those with primary city contracts of $50,000 or more to ward certain percentages of their subcontracts to firms owned by white female and black-owned businesses. Those percentages, which can be updated and changed later, are:

  • 17 percent to black-owned companies for construction work
  • 10 percent to white women-owned companies for construction work
  • 14 percent to black-owned companies for professional services
  • 16 percent to white women-owned companies for professional services

Companies will have to agree to the percentages and show the city how they will meet them before they get a contract. The requirements will expire in five years unless council funds a study that determines that statistically significant discrimination still exists.

“The city’s procurement has not reflected our diversity,” said Mayor John Cranley, adding that the study released this week that concluded the city’s contracting process is discriminatory provides the “legal basis to make a city that works for everybody.”

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Councilman Christopher Smitherman praised the legislation and cautioned those who would label the city’s efforts as “affirmative action.”

“This is an issue of fairness,” Smitherman said. “There are no people here looking for a handout. This is not a capacity issue. This is a will issue.”

Smitherman noted the small number of companies awarded contracts and subcontracts for city work and said that white male-owned companies should back the legislation and be as angry as blacks and white women about the city’s record.

“It’s a real small group of people,” Smitherman said. “This is one of hell of a country club.

“The golf games are going to have to change. The picnics are going to have to change. This is about the social networks . . . as much as anything. People are going to have to do business a different way.”

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