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September 5, 2020
Author : Kristy Casanova
Officials in Hattiesburg aimed to increase the number of registered Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs) in hopes of increasing opportunities and participation for minority-owned businesses. Every U.S. state has its own DBE program, and over recent years many cities and counties have played a growing role in promoting DBE goals.
City officials conducted an initial disparity study that found a lack of DBE-eligible businesses, explaining that, “of the 1,252 construction companies within a 45-mile radius of Hattiesburg, only one is certified as a minority business enterprise”.
At least 10 percent of federal aid highway, transportation and mass transit programs are set aside for certified DBE contractors and suppliers. Hattiesburg city officials plan to divide up their DBE contracts among architectural engineering; infrastructure, including utilities, streets and paving; construction, particularly contractors, materials and supplies; and professional services such as financial and insurance matters.
Local paper Pine Belt News quotes city officials who appear to be prefer to focus on bringing in veteran owned businesses rather than engage in a disparity study:
“Disparity studies are a lot; you do a lot of interviews with individuals in the community, plus public hearings,” said Zach Jones, office manager for Mayor Toby Barker’s office and legal assistant for the city attorney. “I’m not saying that just because it’s a lot, we shouldn’t do it, but it costs about $200,000 to have one of those done.
“On the other hand, with the race and gender neutral approach, it wouldn’t require a disparity study, but that would mean there would be no new space set aside. It would also allow us to incorporate other disadvantaged groups like veterans, disabled LGBTQ, and even on a case-by-case basis, people who are minorities or people who maybe have declared bankruptcy.”
The DBE program is catered towards creating an even playing field for business and keeping money in the local community. While the Federal government’s Small Business Administration (SBA) lays out federal standards for the DBE program, various states and counties have conducted the program in different ways.
For more on the City of Hattiesburg promotion of DBE goals see: