Seattle Mayor Seeks to Bolster Contract Opportunities for Women and Minority-Owned Firms

Efforts will be focused on improving outreach, assessment and feedback with an eye toward reaching contracting goals

September 25, 2019By Bill Conroy

Hickory, NC, USA-13 Sept 2019: Road workers and Caterpillar (CAT 305E) on city street.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan this week signed an executive order designed to speed efforts to achieve contracting equity for the citys women and minority-owned business enterprises (WMBEs). It puts into effect several measures to better monitor and assess contracting outcomes and promote community feedback and contracting opportunities for WMBEs.

The executive order calls for the following:

  • * Commissioning a contracting-disparity study to assess barriers as well as the effectiveness of the citys existing contracting efforts related to WMBEs in city procurements and certifications.
  • * Developing a plan to augment language-appropriate outreach to better serve immigrant and refugee communities in contracting efforts.
  • * Establishing a Mayoral WMBE Advisory Committee to provide feedback and guidance on city contracting initiatives.
  • * And improving outreach to WMBE firms to ensure they have equitable access to information and data related to contracting opportunities.

As a large buyer in our local economy, we have a responsibility to use our purchasing power to help small businesses that have been historically underserved and underused, Durkan says. With this executive order, were doing more to help women- and minority-owned businesses thrive in Seattle. And were setting ambitious goals and lasting processes to make sure that were fulfilling our commitment to this community.

The city of Seattles first-quarter 2019 WMBE Utilization Report shows that it has some progress to make with respect to its WMBE goals related to consulting, purchasing and construction contracts.

The citys 2019 WMBE goal for purchasing contracts is 17% of total contracts awarded, with the city reaching the 14% mark in 2018, up from 13% the prior year, but off a 13-year high of 15% set in 2013, the report shows. With respect to consulting contracts, the WMEBE share last year was 23%, up from 21% in 2017, but still slightly below the 2019 goal of 24%, the report shows.

On the construction contract front, WMBEs share stood at 16% last year, down from 19% in 2015 and off a 15-year high of 24% in 2012 though that year also was one of the lowest points in total city construction-contracting activity over the period.

Today, we are reaffirming our commitment to WMBE businesses and ensuring all firms have the same access and opportunities, City Council President Bruce Harrell says. We looked at the reported contracting data and know we can do better. …I envision Seattle to be a national model for best practices for contracting equity programs.