St Louis County Releases M/WBE Disparity Study

The county is preparing to undertake various actions.

Source : Ken Lund, Flickr

February 16, 2024

Author : Alex Bustillos

St. Louis County, Missouri, to ensure fair opportunities for minority and women-owned businesses (MBE/WBEs) in contracting, has unveiled the results of a disparity study conducted by Phoenix, Arizon-based Keen Independent Research. 

This comprehensive analysis, spanning non-federally funded contracts from 2017 to 2021, highlights that MBE/WBEs secured merely 17% of contract dollars despite representing 38% of the local firms interested in these opportunities. 

The study anticipates a more equitable distribution, suggesting that MBE/WBEs would receive 40% of contract dollars under a truly level playing field.

There were significant disparities among African American, Asian American, Hispanic-American, Native-American, and white woman-owned businesses.

When the County's present M/WBE program was not in effect, there was a significant gap in MBE/WBE use (5% vs. 44% availability).  

This landmark study quantifies the existing disparities and provides qualitative insights into the challenges faced by MBE/WBEs, including discrimination and access to opportunities. With feedback from over 800 community members, including businesses and trade associations, the study paints a detailed picture of the obstacles to fair participation.

Some common problems faced by MBE/WBEs were being underqualified, not meeting insurance requirements, having a project size that was too large, and having unequal access to adequate capital and bonding opportunities.

In response to these findings, St. Louis County is considering several actions to address the disparities, such as setting overarching M/WBE participation goals, refining M/WBE construction contract goals, establishing a Small Business Enterprise program, and enhancing opportunities for MBE/WBEs in small purchases. These measures aim to foster a more inclusive and equitable contracting environment, ensuring that MBE/WBEs have fair access to public contracts and can contribute fully to the local economy.

Category : Minority Business Enterprises Minority Women Business Enterprises Women Business Enterprises Disparity Studies Local Government

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