Disparity study leads to recommendations for city

·2 min read

Sep. 9—The city of Frederick should set both long-term goals and more short-term aims for individual contracts and projects as it attempts to increase the opportunities for women- and minority-owned businesses in the city's procurement process, according to a consultant hired by the city.

Advisors from the firm Griffin and Strong, P.C. on Wednesday briefed the mayor and aldermen on recommendations designed to increase participation in procurement. The suggestions come following a city disparity study released earlier this year.

The study was necessary to meet legal requirements as an attempt to move from encouraging more minority participation to requiring it, according to a memorandum prepared by city staff.

Presented in March and designed to identify shortcomings in the city's procurement process, the study showed that being owned by a woman or racial or ethnic minority "continues to have an adverse impact on a firm's ability to secure contracting opportunities with the city of Frederick, further supporting more aggressive remedial efforts."

The city should add at least one full-time employee to oversee compliance, including holding pre-bid conferences with potential contractors, reviewing companies' certifications and maintaining lists of companies who can help the city meet its goals, Michelle Clark-Jenkins of Griffin and Strong said during Wednesday's workshop.

The city should also have a committee to work toward meeting its goals, consisting of at least an equity program administrator, the purchasing manager, the director of budget and purchasing and the director of public works, Clark-Jenkins said.

Companies that sign contracts with the city would have to meet the goals for including women- or minority-owned businesses or be able to demonstrate that they made good faith efforts to meet the goals.

The city's long-term, aspirational goals should set targets for where they want to be at the end of a year, while more specific goals for individual contracts will help set a strategy for how to get to those broader goals, Clark-Jenkins said.

A successful program will also include a program to help firms that have only been subcontractors on jobs to move toward becoming prime contractors.

Such a program helps smaller companies grow their capacity and keeps them from having to bid against larger firms, Clark-Jenkins said.

The city should also present annual procurement forecasts that will help make smaller firms aware of opportunities that are available, she said.

They'll also have to enhance the collection and tracking of data, including payments tied to awards, tracking subcontractor awards and payments and tying them to prime contractors, and tracking the names of businesses in building permit data.

A city panel designed to look at the study's results recently got the same information from Griffin and Strong and expects to present its feedback in a few weeks, Budget Director Katie Barkdoll told the mayor and aldermen Wednesday.

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