Level Playing Field for Business

Goal: Maintain or exceed 13% MWBE spending each year.

  • What is this?

    A level playing field for business means no one business has an advantage over any other based on superficial matters such as race or gender. Minority- and Women-owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) spending demonstrates whether the City of Memphis is fair in its dealings.

  • Why does it matter?

    Memphians expect the City to spend its resources productively and fairly. The City of Memphis should contract with the best company for the job, without racial or gender bias. By leveling the playing field, all businesses can compete fairly for the City's contracted work.

  • Who is responsible?

    All City of Memphis divisions are responsible for their own procurement processes. The Office of Contract Compliance provides oversight.

  • How do we measure performance?

    We measure the percentage of spending done with MWBEs and chart whether we meet our aggregate goal and the goals we have for different business categories.

How do we measure if the playing field is level for minority- and women-owned businesses?

The Office of Contract Compliance collects procurement data for every awarded contract and notes whether MWBE companies served as contractors or subcontractors on the project. They update the data each month, noting the total spent for all contracts, as well as the amount spent in each of five business categories: prime construction, architecture and engineering, other professional services, non-professional services, and goods and supplies.

On occasion, the City also commissions a disparity study from a third party to get an outside perspective and deeper understanding of any problems. This was most recently done in 2010.

What is the state of things for minority- and women-owned business in Memphis?

The 2010 Disparity Study recommended actions to set aggressive goals for improvement. Total MWBE spending at the time was 7.36%. The City set a goal of meeting or exceeding 13% spending each year. In fiscal years 2010 and 2011, we progressed towards that goal. In 2012, we far surpassed it and continued to spend above the mark in 2013 and 2014. As of April, we are still working to meet the goal for fiscal year 2015.

Following the study, the Office of Contract Compliance also set aggressive MWBE spending goals for each of the five business categories of City contracts. While we have not reached those goals, we have shown improvement in goods and supplies and prime construction in the past year. Non-professional services and architecture and engineering spending with MWBE businesses has dropped, while spending on other professional services has stayed the same.

How is the City of Memphis working to level the playing field?

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The Office of Contract Compliance (OCC) oversees the procurement work of the City, enforcing the existing City Ordinances that promote fairness and ensuring that no contracts are awarded based on race or gender bias. OCC also provides information and assistance related to city contract work for certified MWBE businesses.

While OCC monitors the activity of the City, the Memphis Office of Resource and Enterprise (MORE) serves as a resource hub for the businesses themselves. MORE's goal is to improve the viability of MWBE companies for government and private sector opportunities and then connect these companies to the opportunities themselves. The team at MORE offers information, consultation and training to help MWBE business owners develop competencies and capacity to grow their businesses.

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