Report: Women and Minority Businesses Win More City Contracts, But Lots of Work Still Left

Update 8:35 a.m.: The original version of this blog erroneously stated "Since the previous disparity study in 2010, the number of contracts awarded to minority- and women-owned businesses increased from 23 percent to 16 percent." That error has been corrected.

More San Antonio women and minority business owners are winning city contracts than in the past, but that could be discriminatory, according to a new city-commissioned study.

The city released the 300-plus page report, titled “Business Disparities in the San Antonio, Texas Market Area” on Friday, October 30. National Economic Research Associates, an international consulting firm, conducted the study.

The city touted findings in a news release that the “City of San Antonio has made significant progress in creating opportunities for minority- and women-owned business.” Since the previous disparity study in 2010, the number of contracts awarded to minority- and women-owned businesses increased from 16 percent to 23 percent.

That increase is positive, but it’s less impressive when considering that minority- and women-owned businesses account for 43 percent of all firms eligible for city contracts.

The report also reached some alarming conclusions about minority- and women-owned businesses’ access to contracts. Drawing on both quantitative and anecdotal evidence, the report’s authors found “statistical evidence consistent with the presence of business discrimination against [minority- and women-owned businesses] in the City of San Antonio market area.”

The study concludes that City of San Antonio policies could have made the city government a “passive participant” in creating a discriminatory market. It also quoted anonymous minority business owners’ frustrations with trying to win contracts.

“They just automatically think that we don’t have our stuff together,” one black business owner said. “Whatever the experience they’ve had with anybody that sort of looked like you, they automatically put that upon you and say he’s not going to be able to build the business. He’s not going to be able to [do] this big job. So I’m sure that’s in their mind as they move forward.”

Other business owners touted the Small Business Economic Development Advocacy Program, which gives preference to women- and minority-owned small businesses. Some said that without the program, it’s unlikely they’d have an opportunity to win city jobs. The report recommended expanding programs such as the SBEDA.

The Small Business Advocacy Committee will host a public hearing on the study at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, November 10 at the Cliff Morton Development and Business Services Center (1901 South Alamo). City Council will receive a briefing on the study’s findings during a B Session on Wednesday, November 18.


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