Chattanooga to partner with more minority firms

Chattanooga to partner with more minority firms

December 10th, 2013 by Joy Lukachick Smith in Local Regional News

Warren Logan

Photo by Jay Bailey/Times Free Press.

AT A GLANCE

There are among the changes that will be proposed to the city purchasing manual:

• Try to contract with more minority- and female-owned businesses.

• Change the city's bid process to "best value" purchasing, which means the city doesn't have to contract automatically with the lowest bidder.

• Increase the sealed bid threshold from $10,000 to $25,000.

• Create Start-up CHA, a council where entrepreneurs can pitch ideas for the city to consider.

City officials estimate that only about 2 percent of the businesses Chattanooga contracts with are minority-owned firms.

That's from a pool of more than 1,000 minority- and female-run businesses, according to Urban League of Greater Chattanooga President Warren Logan, who said it's been difficult for owners to get city bids in the past.

City officials told City Council members recently that 2 percent is an unacceptable number.

One of the changes in the city's purchasing manual that will be proposed to the council tonight will address how the city can expand business to better reflect the community, Deputy Chief Operating Officer Brent Goldberg said.

Goldberg, who outlined these changes to the council last week, said the plan will include accepting more diverse business enterprise certifications and advertising for jobs in minority-owned publications. The office of Multicultural Affairs also will host workshops to educate owners on specific qualifications needed to do business with the city.

"We just don't have as many as we'd like participating," Goldberg said. "Partially because it's difficult to do business with the city or there is a perception of that."

About 14 percent of the state's contract jobs are with minority- or women-owned businesses, and that could be a short-term goal for the Scenic City, he said.

Logan said he will act as liaison to the community, working with the city's Office of Multicultural Affairs to alert firms that qualified for specific jobs to enter a bid. He said it's important that businesses in a specific community get the work, potentially boosting the local economy and offering livable wages to workers.

"I think it's a tremendous opportunity that the city is being more inclusive. I think it will open up employment opportunities," he said. "We're really excited about that."

Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at jlukachick@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659.