Study says Aurora needs to give more contracts to minority- and women-owned businesses – Chicago Tribune

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A study commissioned by the city of Aurora shows the city needs to get contracts to more minority- and women-owned businesses.

The Availability and Disparity Study, first commissioned in 2020 but delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, indicates the city has a disparity in awarding contracts to minority- and women-owned businesses, in different categories of purchases.

The full City Council saw a presentation on the study for the first time during the Committee of the Whole meeting this week, although members of the Finance Committee had seen it previously.

The study was done by Griffin and Strong Inc., of Atlanta, and came with recommendations on how the city can spend more of its money with minority- and women-owned businesses.

“This report and accepting it says we recognize that we have a disparity, meaning we’re not spending equally,” said Mayor Richard Irvin. “The next step after we accept this is to start working it out so there’s not a disparity any more.”

Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin.
(City of Aurora)

The study was done using the five-year period between 2015 and 2019, and showed that in everything from road contracts to other vendor purchasing the city had a disparity, when compared to the availability of businesses in the metropolitan area.

Rita McNeil Danish, a partner in the Taft Law Firm and the city’s consultant on the study, said the city has the disparity when “looking at the dollars that the city of Aurora has spent within its metropolitan area.”

The study found that there are minority- and women-owned businesses that are “ready, willing and able to do business” within the area, and compared that to where the city spent its dollars.

“If that number comes out showing under-utilization of a particular group, then you have a disparity,” Danish said.

The council is expected to vote on accepting the study at the regular City Council meeting next week. It is on the consent agenda, meaning it is likely to pass.

When that happens, the city can decide on next steps. One of the first will involve possibly hiring a new staff member at City Hall to implement a plan, and get tracking software so the city can monitor its spending on minority- and women-owned businesses.

Alex Voigt, deputy chief of staff in the mayor’s office, said there will be a decision package on spending the money for those things in the 2023 budget discussions.

As for other steps the city can take, Griffin and Strong presented a number of recommendations, including: outreach to minority- and women-owned businesses; developing a small business reserve program, which actually could benefit all businesses; becoming more conscious of race and gender on bigger construction contracts; and setting goals based on the availability of minority- and women-owned businesses.

Irvin said it will be important for City Council members to help the city with outreach by pinpointing businesses within their wards.

Officials said the city will go case-by-case, but will be more gender and race conscious during bidding and requests for proposals.

Ald. Juany Garza, 2nd, Ward agreed, and said the city must “make sure the small businesses … get something from this piece of cake.”

“Yes, that’s the reason we did this disparity study,” Irvin said.

slord@tribpub.com

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September 11, 2022 at 10:33PM

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