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Experts continue to address disparities in city contracts

Thursday, March 3, 2016 by Eva Ruth Moravec

Revisions to rules that govern how the city contracts with minority- and women-owned businesses are expected to come before City Council in June, in the wake of a disparity study showing that the current ordinance is still necessary. Council will vote today on whether to accept the study’s findings. The study, legally required for cities that wish to implement race-based goals for companies with which it contracts, found that of the $876 million in contracts the city of Austin awarded in a six-year period, 21 percent of those jobs went to minority- and women-owned businesses. When the contracts included race-based goals, 31 percent of projects went to minority- and women-owned businesses; without the goals, participation averaged 17 percent, according to the study, which was conducted by NERA Economic Consulting. The study comes as the current ordinance undergoes sunset review, NERA’s Senior Vice President Jon Wainwright told City Council in a work session Tuesday. He added that results have been similar in cities like Houston and San Antonio. “I’ve been doing this for 25 years, and I look forward to the day when even one study shows this is no longer needed,” Wainwright said.

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