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Bowser Launches Disparity Study of D.C.’s Minority- and Women-Owned Businesses

The Office of the District’s Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development launched a disparity study on May 7 to examine the availability and utilization of minority- and women-owned businesses under the city’s procurement and contracting activities.

Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the study’s start — a joint venture with BBC Research and Consulting and two Certified Business Enterprises (CBEs), Pantera Management and Tiber Hudson, that will collect and analyze four years of contracting data from fiscal years 2017 to 2020. The report will be submitted in April 2022 with guidance on how a program for minority- and women-owned businesses in the District government’s contracting program should be designed so that it can legal challenges based on reverse discrimination.

D.C. Council member Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) spearheaded the legislative effort to produce the study. McDuffie, the chairman of the Committee on Business and Economic Development, expressed satisfaction with the study’s start.

“I secured $750,000 to fund this disparity study in the budget because women and minority entrepreneurs deserve fair and meaningful opportunities to participate in the District’s nearly $1 billion procurement portfolio,” he said. “This is a significant step along the path to re-establishing a Minority and Women Business Enterprise program — an essential ingredient to help grow District-based small businesses and strengthen our Black middle class.”

The BBC-Pantera-Tiber team, which brings years of experience dealing in minority and women contracting programs across the country, said they’re looking forward to the work which lies ahead.

“We are a joint venture that brings together decades of expertise in disparity studies, program implementation, contracting law and the D.C. marketplace,” the group said. “We are dedicated to conducting a disparity study for the District government that meets the highest research and legal standards and providing the guidance it needs to encourage minority- and women-owned business participation effectively and in a legally defensible manner. We look forward to engaging with the local business community frequently over the [next] year.”

The DC Black Business Task Force (DC-BBTF) heralded the start of the study and thanked McDuffie for getting the $750,000 to fund the launch and his “unwavering support and commitment to the Black business community.”

“For five years, the DC-BBTF raised the Black community’s consciousness, specifically the Black business community, about the need for a well-funded and thorough disparity study,” a statement from the group said.

The DC-BBTF said it will consult with the BBC-Pantera-Tiber consulting team. Additionally, the DC-BBTF said it will partner with the Greater Washington Urban League to implement an education campaign that will inform District residents on the study’s progress and encourage their ongoing engagement.

Corey Griffin, chairman of the Greater Washington Black Chamber of Commerce, also hailed McDuffie’s leadership on facilitating the disparity study while anticipating “the important work ahead.”

“We think this is the most consequential effort towards the goal of restoring the District’s Minority Business Enterprise [MBE] program,” Griffin said in a statement. “As the demographics continue to shift here in one of the most gentrified cities in the country, it will be critical to have an MBE program to ensure that Black and minority businesses have the opportunity to exist and thrive in the District of Columbia.”

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