With an estimated 94 people a day moving to Nashville and its growth affecting all areas of the “It City,” not all the citizens of Nashville, particularly minority business owners, are experiencing the benefits of its economic boom.
A recently completed Metro Government 2018 Disparity Study paints an all too recurring picture of significant statistical under-utilization of minority and women-owned businesses within its procurement practices. The NAACP Economic Development Committee advocating on behalf of Minority Owned Businesses has called for amended legislation to remediate the discrimination and address marketplace barriers documented in this disparity study as well as previous disparity studies completed in 1999 and 2004.
Metro Council passed procurement non-discrimination legislation in 2008, following recommendations from the previous studies. However, the watered-down predominantly race neutral program, essentially an outreach program, has not produced meaningful changes to the systemic racial bias within the procurement practices of Metro Government and the city as a whole.
The disparity study reports that from the period 2013- 2017, out of $2.9 billion in contracts awarded in areas of Construction, Agriculture & Engineering, Professional and Non-Professional Services, and Goods, minority and women-owned businesses (MWBE’s) received $479.9 million or 16.54%, and Non-MWBE’s received $2.4 billion or 83.46%. Furthermore, MWBE’s were underutilized across each category based on availability.
In actuality, minority and women owned businesses were awarded far less than their availability indicates to the tune of $374,474,218, and Black owned businesses fared worst than all other minorities combined missing-out on $190,576,113 of awards. The NAACP EDC believes that dating back to 2000, following Nashville’s first Disparity Study that it is reasonable to forecast that Minority and Women owned businesses in Metropolitan Nashville have experienced bias, amounting to more than $1Billion dollars in lost opportunity that would have directly impacted the minority communities and the ability of minority businesses to prosper.
Faced with these disturbing findings, newly-elected Mayor David Briley stated in a recent press release that his administration is committed to ensuring all Nashvillians can equitably participate in our city’s success and growth. “To this end, we must focus on addressing the long-standing systemic issues. Our procurement process should -and will- reflect this commitment,” said Briley.
While the NAACP applauds and welcomes the Mayor’s commitment to ensuring that all Nashvillians have an opportunity to participate in our city’s growth and success, we are also cautious about the process and approach based on a history of broken promises from a series of Metro Davidson County Mayors, as well as a lack of support from the Metro Council over the past 20 years. Nevertheless, we are encouraged by the Mayor’s statement and offer our assistance to move the process along as quickly as possible to show tangible results. The time is now for fairness and equity in Nashville’s procurement practices in the public & private sectors, and we won’t stop pushing until it becomes a reality.
Alex Coure and Don Majors are co-chairs of the Nashville NAACP Economic Development Committee