Dear Stakeholders and S/MWDBE Community,
Excitement is in the air. Women are back and the citywide construction goal has been increased! You don’t know what all the hype is about? Well, on May 8, 2013, Mayor Annise Parker and the Houston City Council, unanimously approved amendments to Chapter 15 Code of Ordinances, which governs the City’s Minority and Women Business Enterprise (MWBE) program and a new citywide participation goal for construction contracts.
As a result of City Council’s action, beginning July 1, 2013, several enhancements will be made to the 30 year old goal-oriented MWBE program. Most significantly, the citywide participation goal on construction contracts will increase from 22% to 34%; Women Business Enterprises (WBEs) will be reinstated in construction contract specific goals; and the Persons with Disabilities Business Enterprise program will be expanded so that it’s more inclusive of disabled veterans by adopting the federal government’s definition of “disability”. Although not required to have a race neutral component to the MWBE program, the City has elected to continue a Small Business Enterprise program, resulting in an MWSBE program.
The City of Houston’s MWBE program was implemented in 1984. Until 2009, when a settled lawsuit required the removal and replacement of WBEs with Small Business Enterprises until a comprehensive construction industry disparity study could be performed, the MWBE program remained largely unchanged. Subsequent to the court settlement, the City engaged a nationally-recognized firm to conduct a disparity study. The results of the study, released in April 2012, compared the number of MWBE firms utilized on city contracts to the number of companies in the construction industry available in the greater Houston area. The study’s findings reflected a need for a significant increase in the citywide MWBE participation goal on construction contracts.
Immediately after the release of the disparity study findings, Mayor Parker commissioned a Construction Disparity Study Working Group, co-led by Council member Larry Green and myself, to review the results of the study and make recommendations for presentation to City Council. The City engaged over 100 contractors and small businesses through various stakeholders’ meetings and focus groups which included organizations such as the National Association of Minority Contractors-Houston Chapter (NAMC), Women Contractors Association (WCA), Houston Contractors Association (HCA), and the Houston Minority Supplier Development Council (HMSDC).
The changes approved by City Council are the end result of recommendations made by a MWBE Transition Task Force appointed by Mayor Parker in 2010 to review the program, the disparity study’s findings, the Construction Disparity Study Working Group’s recommendations, and input from stakeholders. In addition to increasing the citywide participation goal in the area of construction and the reinstatement of WBEs to the program, the following procedures to enhance the program’s effectiveness will also be implemented:
- Review of the MWSBE program every five years.
- Expansion of geographic boundaries to include two new counties: San Jacinto and Austin Counties.
- Revision of the Good Faith Efforts Policy.
- Requirement that contractors submit their plans for meeting the Good Faith Efforts at the time of bid submission.
- Implementation of a three-year MWSBE certification.
- Standardization of department accountability for monitoring of Good Faith Efforts.
Please note that only certified MWSBE firms are eligible to fulfill goal requirements on City of Houston contracts. However, City of Houston certifications are also accepted by the following agencies:
- METRO (DBE only)
- 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 (DBE only)
A complete copy of the amended Chapter 15 Code of Ordinances approved by City Council is not available on the City’s website at this time, but can be obtained by contacting the City Secretary’s office at 832.393.1100 or via email at email@example.com. A nominal fee to obtain a copy is involved.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t extend our sincerest gratitude to Mayor Annise Parker for her wisdom, support, and leadership. I, along with the entire Office of Business Opportunity team, would also like to thank Council member Larry Green and the Construction Disparity Study Working Group members: Director Daniel Krueger (Public Works & Engineering); Director Scott Minnix (General Services Department); Director Mario Diaz (Houston Airport System); Augustus Campbell and Rashaad Gambrell (Legal Department); Humberto Bautista (General Services Department); and Marsha Murray (Office of Business Opportunity), for their diligence and dedication. Appreciation is also extended to you, our stakeholders and S/MWDBE community for your participation and input that helped get us to this point.
Carlecia D. Wright