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Boston Effort Hopes To Increase Diversity In City Contracts

Boston’s Supplier Diversity Week aims to boost minority-, women-owned contractors

The city of Boston is focusing on increasing supplier diversity in its contracts through a series of programs aimed at connecting minority- and women-owned businesses with technical support and funding.

In fiscal 2023, Boston awarded $151 million, or 14% of its contracts, to certified minority- and women-owned businesses (MWBEs), a 6% increase over 2022.

“This is about making more opportunities for all of our city residents, not just for the entrepreneurs and employees who will be directly impacted, but also the rest of the communities who will feel that ripple effect of when small, local businesses in Boston get to grow to their full potential,” said Mayor Michelle Wu, who also declared this week Supplier Diversity Week, in a statement this week. “We know we have to stay together as one community, keeping all of us accountable when it comes to supplier diversity and pushing all of us to do more.”

The city launched a request for proposals Monday for the new Supplying Capital and Leveraging Education (SCALE) business accelerator program, which will provide technical assistance, educational programming and consulting services to small local businesses. The RFP will be funded by $2.4 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding.

The goal of the RFP is to support at leasts 18 small, Boston-based businesses in specific industry sectors, including snow removal and HVAC, during its first year. Participating businesses will receive tools, training and capital to address capacity issues that usually prevent smaller businesses from competing for large contracts.

“The development of some communities cannot coexist with the underdevelopment of others,” said Chief of Economic Opportunity and Inclusion Segun Idowu. “I am grateful for the hard work of the Supplier Diversity and Procurement teams who are both ensuring that existing local firms have an opportunity to work with the City, as well as building the pipeline of new companies that can seek similar work through our SCALE program.”

The RFP will give preference to proposals that are aligned with the city’s climate goals. Interested businesses can review the RFP guidelines and submit proposals here.

Boston’s Contracting Opportunity Fund

In addition to the SCALE program, Wu announced Monday that 51 MWBEs received grants from the city’s Contracting Opportunity Fund, which supports capacity building efforts for Boston-based businesses by funding things such as purchasing new equipment, expanding rental space and acquiring bonding or insurance.

The $750,000 in funding was disbursed in grants of up to $15,000 to businesses in waste collection and management, snow removal and landscaping, design and architectural services; food and dining services, construction and more.

“I have a couple of painting jobs coming up, and I had to use all of my savings to secure the contract. Essentially, I am still in business because of the Boston Contracting Opportunity Fund Grant,” said Bryant Williams, owner of BWilliams Painting Company. “I will be able to pay for some insurance, part of my business mortgage and equipment. There is no way I would have recovered from my deficit if not for this grant, which kept me afloat and allowed me to fulfill my contract with Northern Contracting, a partner I’ve been contracting with for years. This is truly a blessing.”

Of the 51 businesses that received grants, 31% are women-owned and 78% are minority-owned. More than half of the businesses are Black-owned, more than half are small businesses and 45% are located in Dorchester or Roxbury.

The grant program is in its third year.

“We know that our purchasing power is just that – power that we can use to build generational wealth in our neighborhoods and support small, local, and diverse businesses,” said Chief Financial Officer and Chief Procurement Officer Ashley Groffenberger.

As part of Supplier Diversity Week, the city will also host a series of in-person and virtual workshops for small business owners. Learn more here.

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