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Source : Contractor News
August 2, 2022
Author : Alex Bustillos
Disparity studies determine whether a government entity has engaged in exclusionary practices in the solicitation and award of contracts to minority, women-owned, and disadvantaged business enterprises in the past or currently.
The study’s conclusions assist local and state governments to determine the need for contracting and purchasing methods reforms. The data will also help organizations develop a plan if procedural modifications or new initiatives are needed.
The business engagement phase of the countywide disparity study was launched by the County of Santa Clara and MGT Consulting. The study’s goal is to expand opportunities for small and diverse businesses. To that end, it will collect and analyze data to identify potential disparities between the availability of diverse businesses and how they are chosen as county contractors.
County officials chose MGT Consulting for the disparity study because the firm has completed over 230 disparity studies nationwide. It was chosen among seven firms that submitted proposals after the county contacted hundreds of businesses.
The county of Santa Clara is a diverse and multicultural region, home to 1.9 million people.
County officials want to be more inclusive by identifying underrepresented businesses that have been excluded in the past due to language and cultural barriers.
Some businesses find it difficult to access opportunities due to a lack of information translated into other languages.
According to Supervisor Susan Ellenberg, the economy is driven by small businesses, many of which are owned by immigrants, people of color, and women. Still, it is difficult for them to learn about contract opportunities, and they may mistakenly believe that the size and scale of Santa Clara County preclude them from becoming vendors.
Gene Clark, county chief procurement officer, said staff would design initiatives targeting underprivileged groups, such as outreach events with interpreters to explain the contracting process.
Supervisor Otto Lee said small firms need applications and documents in multiple languages to apply for government initiatives. Santa Clara County proposes to provide $20 million of American Rescue Plan funds to small businesses. He requested the County to prepare an ethnic outreach plan in their languages.
A significant component of the Study will include outreach meetings to hear from local vendors, particularly minority-, women-, LGBTQ-, and disabled veteran-owned businesses. MGT Consulting will host five virtual business engagement sessions between August and September, and the first will take place on Thursday, August 11. MGT hosts the meetings without County staff and collects feedback, so vendors remain anonymous. The meetings will be simultaneously translated to English, Chinese (Mandarin), Filipino, Korean, Spanish, and Vietnamese.
“The County wants to encourage vendors and small businesses, especially those from underrepresented and diverse businesses, to participate in the Disparity Study,” explained Chief Operating Officer Miguel Márquez, J.D. “We live in a diverse county with different challenges and with people facing different needs. This Study will help us improve our procurement processes to address the inequities that still exist more effectively.”
MGT Consulting has launched a new website, countyofsantaclaradisparitystudy.com, where vendors can learn more about the Study and fill out forms about their experiences doing business with or attempting to do business with the County.
Businesses will also be chosen randomly from a pool of vendors to participate in interviews and business surveys. The interviews are opportunities for business owners to meet with the MGT team one-on-one. The surveys collect information on business demographics, capacity, and each vendor’s interactions with the County.