Controller urges city to create mentor program to boost minority firms
City Controller Alan Butkovitz released a review report of the City’s Diversity and Inclusion Program that calls for creating a well-structured Mentor-Protégé program to increase Minority, Women and Disabled-Owned Businesses (M/W/DSBE) in Philly.
“There are virtually no minority or women-owned prime contractors in many fields, particularly construction, and a shortage of M/WBE subcontractors in many fields as well. We found a lot of good minority and women firms in the Philadelphia marketplace; however, there are just not enough" City Controller Alan Butkovitz
The program would be the first of its kind within Philadelphia’s city government. A three-to-five year initiative that would be modeled after successful programs in the U.S, focused in assisting minority firms to compete in areas where they are underrepresented, including construction, information technology, and highway transportation projects.
According to Butkovitz, the project would also assist prime contractors in obtaining M/W/DSBE participation, help meet goals set forth by the City’s Economic Opportunity Plan and at the same time produce minority firms capable of graduating to prime contractor status.
The released report also indicated that the Mayor’s overhaul of the City’s diversity and inclusion policies in 2008 resulted in minority-owned businesses’ contracts to increase from less than 12 percent in that year to almost 30 percent in 2014.
However, the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) reports the award amount rather than what is actually paid. "These participation commitments are often higher than the actual payments, which results in overstatement of actual participation data. In 2014, the vast majority of minority contracts went to a very small number of firms," the report stated.
The review also found that despite growth in the quantity of firms added to the OEO's registry, the quality of information presented is inadequate and often outdated, proving little help to majority firms seeking capable MWBE partners or subcontractors.
“The city should include actual payment data in its annual reports as it would substantially improve OEO’s contract and business data report,” Butkovitz said. “The City needs to make adequate investments in technology so that the OEO registry can fulfill its potential as a useful took to increase inclusion in contracting.”