Charlotte is trying to build a database of businesses owned by women and minorities as the city works to launch a new program designed to give such firms more work.
The City Council last spring approved a new program for city contracts that would set targets for businesses owned by women and minorities.
The program – known as Charlotte Business INClusion – replaced a 10-year-old program that had specific targets only for small businesses. It didn’t mention race or gender specifically.
But then-council members Patrick Cannon and James Mitchell pushed the city to adopt a more narrowly focused program, in part to help African-American and other minority firms have a better chance at receiving more public tax dollars. Cannon is now the mayor.
“We’re still trying to build the program,” said Nancy Rosado, who is overseeing the project for the city.
Rosado said the city has first targeted construction contractors and is now moving on to businesses that provide services.
“We still don’t have a large enough number of MBE (minority business enterprise) firms, specifically on the construction side of the house,” Rosado said.
She said the city is trying to register as many women- and minority-owned firms as possible, which will make it easier for the city to consider them for contracts. In addition, large firms can use registered businesses as subcontractors to help them meet city requirements.
Charlotte had a program that specifically targeted minority-owned firms for 20 years, starting in 1981. But the city disbanded the program in 2003 under threat of litigation as to whether the program was fair.
Council members hired two consultants recently to see whether the program should return.
The first consultant said disparities remained between white-owned businesses and minority-owned firms. But the consultant recommended against creating a new program in an attempt to fix the disparity.
Council members then hired a second consultant, who recommended that the city create a new program.