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Source : Flickr
June 11, 2021
Author : Alex Bustillos
As Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg tours the country promoting President Biden’s infrastructure proposal, South Bend continues to lag in minority business participation in city contracting.
A Friday report from the South Bend Tribune shows that the city, where Secretary Buttigieg served as mayor from the first day of 2012 to the first day of 2020, continues to fall far short of expectations in terms of participation rates from minority and women-owned businesses (M/WBEs) in city contracting.
Starting at the beginning of this year through March, just 0.54 percent of city contracting dollars went to women and minority-owned businesses, according to a new report from the city’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Only four such companies have gotten contracts, including three owned by women and one owned by a minority.
The contract for the minority-owned firm was valued at $1,367, which makes up just 0.006 percent of the total $22 million the city has spent on contracts this year.
According to the U.S. census, 26.6 percent of South Bend’s population is African American, 1.5 percent is Asian, and 15.7 percent is Latino. Excluding other racial groups that don’t make up more than one percent of South Bend’s population, minorities make up 43.8 percent of the city.
While it is the city’s goal, according to an ordinance by the city, to have six percent of contracts go to women and minority-owned businesses, city leaders seem to think they are on the right track.
The city’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion director, Michael Patton, said they’ll reach the goal “for sure.”
"We’re off to a good start,” he said. “We’ve implemented our program plan and the initiatives of our strategic plan. This is the first sort of snapshot, and to be at .54 in this first quarter, to me, is showing progress and showing that our initiatives are beneficial to the vendors that we’re working with. This is a new process.”
This is not the first time South Bend has fallen far short of its goals with this matter. One report by Akela Lacy in The Intercept notes how according to a report from the office of then-Mayor Pete Buttigieg, “2 percent of the city’s purchases went to contracts with minority- and women-owned businesses [in 2015]. In 2016, the number was 1.7 percent; in 2017, it was 1.9 percent; in 2018, it was 2.8 percent.”
The City of South Bend previously increased their goal of M/WBE participation rate to 15 percent, but lowered it saying that the number of M/WBEs in the area was overcalculated by a company hired to conduct a disparity study.
That disparity study said that the participation rate of M/WBEs was closer to 12 percent between 2015 and 2017, with most of the participation going to subcontracted firms. However that study was conducted by the same outside firm that drastically miscalculated the actual number of M/WBEs in the area in the same study. So it’s likely that some companies were wrongly considered M/WBEs in their assessment of women and minority-owned business participation.
Photo via Flickr.