In an effort to boost the use of minority contractors, the city of Charlotte moved closer Monday to adding race- and gender-specific goals to its Small Business Opportunity Program.
The city stopped having race and gender targets for hiring a decade ago under the fear of litigation. The city instead focused on trying to steer city contracts to small businesses, hoping that women and minority-owned firms would benefit.
But some council members have pushed for the changes after a consultant, MGT America, found in 2010 that minority and women-owned firms werent receiving as much work as the city had hoped. MGT, however, did not recommend any changes to the citys small business program.
In a controversial decision, the City Council then hired a second consultant, the Baltimore law firm Tydings & Rosenburg, which recommended the city set specific goals for such firms. At the time, one council member, Republican Warren Cooksey, said the council was consultant shopping.
But at a public hearing on the issue Monday night, a handful of attorneys and business people spoke in favor of the change.
Under the old program, more African-America contractors participated, said Stephanie Berwald, president of the Metrolina Minority Contractors Association. When it was eliminated, the number went down drastically.
In early March, city staff recommended a number of changes, including adding race- and gender-specific goals for city contracts. In addition, the city plans to increase the threshold for contracts in which formal bids must be taken, from $200,000 to $500,000.
If the council approves the changes, they would go into effect July 1.
The council will probably take a vote on the changes later this spring.
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