Guilford County Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Skip Alston has made it clear that attacking homelessness is the county’s number one goal in 2023.
However – based on county positions added, money spent and discussion time – increasing the county’s use of women- and minority-owned businesses in county contracts and services is right up there as a top board priority as well.
In early January, the Board of Commissioners received a presentation on the results of a $300,000 disparity study, and this week the board is scheduled to codify those findings and recommendations into county purchasing and vendor contract practices by adopting a policy and procedural manual regarding the treatment of MWBE companies.
Last month, immediately after hearing the disparity report, the commissioners took the astonishing step of adding five positions to the MWBE Department that only had three positions at the time. Thus, the commissioners nearly tripled the department overnight.
This week, the motion before the board, which is expected to pass easily at a Thursday, March 2 commissioners’ meeting, is to “Adopt the MWBE Policy and authorize the County Manager to implement the MWBE Administrative manual.”
The purpose of the disparity study was to see if a disparity existed between the number of MWBE firms available to perform county contracts and how many of those firms Guilford County ended up using for providing county services and working on county projects.
The firm of Griffin & Strong, the same firm that does the disparity studies for the City of Greensboro, conducted the study and found that “evidence exists to support the County’s use of race-conscious and gender-conscious measures and the continuation of the County’s MWBE Program.”
One recommendation of the study was to draft an official program policy with a procedure manual – the step the board will take this week.
Together, the Guilford County MWBE Department and the Guilford County Attorney’s Office drew up the draft of the county’s first official MWBE policy and administrative document meant for adoption by the Board of Commissioners.
The commissioners may adopt it as is or may tweak it before doing so.
This is one of several recent major steps in the effort to shore up the county’s MWBE efforts. The county will do things like set contract by contract goals for MWBE participation, review bonding requirements (which MWBE firms often cannot meet because they tend to be smaller firms) and invest in broader more targeted outreach programs for minority- and women-owned firms. The county is also investing in new purchasing tracking software that will provide a great deal of data as to the ways in which the county is and isn’t meeting its MWBE goals.