White Women Reap the Bulk of Minnesota’s DBE Dollars

Eighty eight percent of contracting dollars set aside for disadvantaged business enterprises have gone to businesses owned by white women in the state.

Source : Pxhere

June 22, 2021

Author : Patty Rodriguez

The ratio is reflective of a national problem according to Sean Skibbie, interim director of civil rights and the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT). “White women tend to be, sometimes, the biggest beneficiaries of affirmative action programs," he said, according to BizJournals.

This checks out with our reporting last week on South Bend, Indiana, where 0.006% of city contracting dollars have gone to minorities this year. While only four contracts have been awarded to disadvantaged business enterprises, three of them (valued at $119,000) were to women-owned firms and just one (valued at $1,367) was to a minority-owned firm. To be clear, both situations are far below expectations, but the ratio does speak to a disparity.

While it would be more informative to have aggregate data on DBE dollar disparities between white women and minorities around the country, this is a trend that is seen frequently.

Part of the problem is that federal law doesn’t allow state contracting agencies that take federal money for DBE programs to put minority and women-owned businesses into separate categories.

Hyon Kim, president of MN Best, a minority-owned civil engineering company, told BizJournals that the problem isn’t necessarily about racism, since prime contractors tend to have established relationships with a set of subcontractors and don’t want to take on the risks of working with subcontractors they don’t know.

Meanwhile, most prime contractors are owned by white men. Kim said that prime contractors could do better to diversify their subcontracting base.

Like South Bend, Bizjournals reports that MnDOT has fallen short of its goals for contracting with DBE firms at large — not just minority-owned businesses, failing every year since at least 2015.

Getting these things right is critical for minority-owned business. As we have previously reported, African American small business owners have shut down at twice the rate of small businesses owned by white people during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Category : Disadvantaged Business Enterprises Minority Business Enterprises Women Business Enterprises Contractor Trades Department of Transportation Disparity Studies State Government Procurement

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