Charlotte Is Among 5 Cities Developing More Inclusive Procurement

Charlotte, North Carolina

Charlotte, North Carolina


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“We know that diverse and equitable communities tend to be more economically and civically vibrant and experience more growth,” said a Living Cities employee of its latest City Accelerator cohort.

Members of the the Charlotte City Council wrote a letter to residents in October, following the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott and ensuing civil unrest, promising to invest $1 million in a workforce development program helping disadvantaged communities access “good paying jobs.”

The Charlotte Business INClusion office, which promotes diverse economic development throughout North Carolina’s most-populous city, subsequently applied for a spot in New York City-based nonprofit Living Cities’ latest City Accelerator.

Living Cities’ fourth cohort is focused on driving inclusive economic opportunity through procurement, and Charlotte plans to use the $100,000 that comes with its berth to assist minority-owned businesses in obtaining city contracts.

“Our largest portion of [minority, women and small business enterprises] is African-Americans,” spokeswoman Hannah Cook told Route Fifty in a phone interview. “For some reason, we’re missing that gap.”

In fiscal year 2016, Charlotte awarded $4.4 million in contracts to African-Americans through its MWSBE program—10.8 percent of the total $41 million awarded. White men received $27 million in contracts, or 65.7 percent by comparison.

Griffin & Strong, an Atlanta-based law and public policy consulting firm and City Accelerator partner, will meet with Charlotte on July 17 to discuss the city’s grant proposal. A one-year work plan will be finalized on Aug. 1 and launched Sept. 1.

The city’s goals are threefold: increase MWSBE capacity through educational and mentoring opportunities, increase the procurement spend among minority-owned businesses in particular, and build partnerships with local corporations and anchor institutions to do the same.

Other cities in Charlotte’s cohort include Chicago; Los Angeles; Memphis, Tennessee; and Milwaukee, Wisconsin—all chosen because of their commitment to improving local procurement practices and equity along with them.

“We know that diverse and equitable communities tend to be more economically and civically vibrant and experience more growth,” said Julie Bosland, Living Cities associate director for public sector innovation.

Each city’s accelerator strategy reflects its unique contracting environment.

Chicago will develop a universal procurement system across multiple public agencies and explore a joint compliance system that includes minority- and women-owned businesses.

L.A. wants to enact policy changes increasing the number of contracts awarded to diverse local businesses in partnership with the South Los Angeles Transit Empowerment Zone.

Memphis seeks to implement policy and process reforms addressing disparities in city contracting and strengthening small, women- and minority-owned businesses.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett wants his city to partner with entrepreneurs to increase small business participation in city contracting.

New York City-based Citi Foundation is a partner on the accelerator initiative, which will hold three convenings to give participating cities ongoing guidance.

An estimated $1.6 trillion is spent in the U.S. on procurement annually, and large city contracts create jobs, generate tax revenue and promote stability.

“When these local vendors succeed, their success has ripple effect,” Bosland said.

Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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