Equal Opportunity for Minority- and Women-Owned Businesses
Chicago’s Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise Program (MWBE), established by Mayor Harold Washington, has been a model of how cities can level the playing field and create business opportunities for everyone. Created through executive order, the MWBE Program set goals of inclusion for women and minorities in the awarding of contracts.
Despite proven successes with the MWBE Program, there are issues that must be addressed in order to meet the original the goals and objectives. The Inspector General’s Office concluded that $9.5 billion has been awarded since 1991, but some figures concerning allocations have been over-reported. The IG reported that the main problems with the MWBE program are:
- Lack of cooperation between city departments in administering the program
- Mistakes in assessing actual MWBE participation.
- Not collecting, analyzing, or reporting data on actual payments to MWBEs
- Failure to track payments to MWBEs as contracts are performed
As mayor, Moseley Braun said her administration will make the following improvements in the process of allocating contracts:
- Demand enforcement of the regulations in place to insure compliance
- Work to improve access to capital by encouraging not only banks but venture capitalists to invest here at home instead of in New York and California
- Un-bundle contracts so the hidden opportunities that minorities and women can compete for are clear
- Provide greater technical assistance to those who wish to participate in the certification and bidding process.
- Hold all those awarded major contracts accountable for bringing more minorities and women into their companies as sub contractors
- Ask major contractors to help women and minority companies with capital and bonding.
- Work to ensure that in-state contractors get priority so that we stop sending our hard earned tax dollars to out-of-state workers
- Create transparency in the allocation of contracts by putting more of the process online and appoint an auditing team to look at every department to find out where the money is going and who it is going to.
- Make compliance with the law in this area a condition of performance evaluation for every department head.
“I want to point out that Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprise is a matter of grave importance, not only to those of us who are African-American, or who are women, or who might be Hispanic or Asian or Native American, or East Asian,” Senator Moseley Braun said, “but to the community as a whole. This issue goes to the heart of defining our community as one of inclusion and diversity."
"Small businesses create jobs in our neighborhoods. Small businesses grow our communities. I cannot help but wonder what innovation or new technology may have been lost, all because a minority- or women- owned business was denied an opportunity to compete. Leadership in this area must come from the top.”