Houston City Council today approved Mayor Annise Parker’s recommended enhancements to the city’s 30-year-old goal-oriented Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) contracting program. Due to council’s action, women-owned businesses will be reinstated to the program, the citywide participation goal in construction will increase from 22 percent to 34 percent and the Persons with Disabilities Business Enterprise program will be expanded to adopt the federal government’s definition of disability to be more inclusive of disabled veterans. The changes are the end result of a recent disparity study, conducted by a nationally-recognized firm, comparing the number of MWBE firms utilized on city contracts to the number of such companies available in the greater Houston area.
“The Houston business environment is as diverse as its population,” said Mayor Parker. “It is only fair that participation in city contracting opportunities reflect this diversity. These changes, which have wide support in the contracting community, will help ensure that historically underutilized small, minority and women-owned companies will get a fair chance to compete for city construction work.”
The City of Houston implemented its MWBE program in 1984. It remained largely unchanged until 2009 when a lawsuit required the removal and replacement of women-owned businesses with Small Business Enterprises until a comprehensive construction industry disparity study could be performed. The results of the study completed in April 2012 indicated a need for a significant increase in citywide MWBE participation in the construction goal, which reflects the availability of those groups in the Houston marketplace. The city, although not required to have a race neutral component to the MWBE program, has elected to continue a Small Business Enterprise program, resulting in an MWSBE program.
“We took a look at something created 30 years ago to make sure it works for today,” said Carlecia Wright, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Business Opportunity. “Everything we’ve been able to learn over the last three decades has gone into making the program better.”
In addition to the reinstatement of women-owned firms and the higher annual citywide participation goal in construction, OBO is implementing the following procedures to enhance the program’s effectiveness:
- Review the MWSBE Program every five years
- Expand the geographic boundaries to include two new counties: San Jacinto and Austin Counties
- Revise the Good Faith Efforts Policy
- Require contractors to submit their plans for meeting the good faith efforts at the time of bid submission
- Implement a three-year MWSBE certification
- Standardize department accountability for monitoring of good faith efforts.
Only certified MWSBE firms are eligible to fulfill goal requirements on city contracts. City of Houston certification is also accepted by the following agencies:
- Port of Houston Authority
- Houston Independent School District
- Houston Community College
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- Houston Housing Authority
- Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
- Texas Department of Transportation
- Airport Transportation Agencies Statewide.
Visit http://www.houstontx.gov/obo/certification.html for more information on certification.