By Aaron Allen, The Seattle Medium
Last week, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell signed a new Executive Order that develops and expands contracting equity and access for businesses, particularly WMBEs, seeking contracting and procurement opportunities with the City of Seattle.
The Executive Order focuses on six strategic priorities, including engaging and partnering with the WMBE community, expanding contracting equity for BIPOC-owned firms with a focus on Black-owned firms, providing resources and support for WMBEs, strengthening the city’s accountability and transparency mechanisms for WMBE support and equitable contracting, ongoing improvement of city policies and practices, and expanding contracting equity for historically underrepresented communities, including LGBTQ, veteran, and immigrant-owned firms and small businesses.
“One of the most direct and powerful ways the city can support our small businesses is through contracting opportunities for the goods and services we use. Through this Executive Order, we are codifying our commitment to create opportunities for women and minority-owned businesses, investing dollars back into their businesses, their employees, and the communities they serve who have not always had a seat at the table or a fair shot at this work,” said Harrell.
According to Harrell, this executive order will help drive economic empowerment and create pathways to grow wealth, particularly for WMBE firms. It will also call on City departments to execute vital actions that advance support and contracting equity for women and minority-owned firms that are disproportionately underutilized in public contracting opportunities with the goal of advancing his vision for One Seattle as an inclusive and equitable city where entrepreneurs and small businesses of all backgrounds can succeed.
“As a member of the City’s WMBE Advisory Board, I have seen up close and personal the commitment of Mayor Harrell to our small, minority, women, and veteran businesses’ development. The mayor understands contracting equity, and the fair and equitable inclusion of WMBEs in city government contracting processes is a critical issue today, with significant implications for the future of our communities and economies,” said Regina Glenn, president of Pacific Communications Consultants Inc. “The success of our city depends on our ability as a collective to build strong economies with capable local industries, and WMBEs who can play an important role in that success—but only if they are given an equitable opportunity to compete for city contracts.”
Statistics show that while BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) residents account for nearly 38 percent of the city’s population, BIPOC businesses earn only 14 percent of the City’s purchasing and contracting spend.
“As a Black woman business owner fortunate to contract with the City of Seattle, I’ve witnessed firsthand the transformative power of prioritizing equity in contracting,” says Dr. Gillian Marshall, Owner of Dynamic and Innovative Research Solutions. “The City’s commitment to working with Women and Minority Business Enterprises (WMBEs), as evidenced by this Executive Order, will not only increase the WMBE applicant pool but should also increase the number of WMBEs securing contracting opportunities with the city. This will ensure a more diverse and inclusive business community for One Seattle.”
Ollie Garrett, President and CEO of PMT Solutions and Tabor 100, spotlights that it is important for entities like the City of Seattle to support Black businesses to help diminish the disparities in unemployment, lower wages, and net worth of the Black community.
“I want to point out that the Executive Order specifically notes that Black-owned firms are less likely to participate in city contracting than other minority businesses,” says Garrett. “Minority businesses hire from their specific communities, meaning support for Black businesses especially supports the Black community. Supporting Black businesses aids the Black community in addressing a significant net worth gap (20 times), higher unemployment, and generally lower wages when compared to the majority population.”