ASHEVILLE – Following a study showing 0.5% of city contracts went to Black businesses, the City Council has said it will move from a “race-neutral” policy to a “race-conscious” one that sets goal for minority businesses contracting.
The new business inclusion policy will go into effect Jan. 1 after a unanimous vote by the council Oct. 27.
Councilman Keith Young, who reacted in 2018 to the study revealing extreme contract disparities saying bluntly, the numbers “suck — especially where they pertain to black folks,” this month praised the city staff who put together the new policy, but added “It’s just taken a long time to get to this point.”
Of the $118 million in public money paid to businesses between 2012-17 a total of 87.2 percent, or nearly $106 million, went to firms owned by white men.
That is according to the $319,948 study that was needed to legally justify the change in policy. The study took into account the number of minority and women-owned businesses in the area.
The city is now allowed to establish annual “aspirational” goals and contract-by-contract subcontracting goals for minority-owned and women-owned businesses.
The goals will be based on the availability of minority and women-owned businesses in the Asheville region.
“Until now, the business inclusion policy has been race and gender neutral,” said city Business Inclusion Manager Rosanna Mulcahy. “The result of the disparity study showed that the race neutral program model has not successfully addressed disparity. Therefore, we are recommending our policy to move from embracing gender neutral to race and gender conscious.”
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