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Walsh executive order aimed at equitable contracting

New process for securing goods, services

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the Banner’s senior editor. VIEW BIO

City of Boston officials last week announced changes to the procurement process through which the city purchases goods and services, aimed at expanding the number of minority- and women-owned businesses contracting with city departments.

Through an executive order issued by Mayor Martin Walsh, city employees and department heads who manage procurement processes are now required to undergo training and develop procurement plans that emphasize equitable business practices.

The city will also update its directory of small and local businesses to better reflect the opportunities for contracting with minority- and women-owned firms.

“This executive order establishes a set of sound business practices in the City of Boston’s procurement process that will increase transparency, accessibility, and efficiency across all departments and agencies,” said John Barros, chief of Economic Development, in a statement sent to news media. “As we create equitable procurement plans in the beginning of the budgeting process, while simultaneously modernizing our certified business registry, the city will be in a position to strategically market opportunities to an increased pool of businesses and do business with a diverse ecosystem of new businesses.”

Barros noted that the Boston Planning and Development Agency recently updated its guidelines for the disposition of publicly-owned land, giving projects in which people of color have ownership equity points.

“The results of that were telling,” he said, citing the land disposition process in Dudley Square earlier this year. “We got the outcomes we were looking for.”

In order for minority- and women-owned business enterprises (MWBEs) to receive special consideration from the city, each business must undergo a certification process to prove majority ownership. Under the new guidelines, firms certified through the state’s process are automatically certified to work with the city.

The certified firms are listed in a database that the city’s Office of Economic Development (OED) maintains. The OED is currently training city departments to determine what their purchase and contracting needs are. The city will then put out a bid book — a listing of purchasing and contracting needs on which contractors can bid. Knowing what opportunities are coming down the road affords the OED more chances to connect MWBEs with those opportunities, Barros said.

The city can also help small businesses obtain loans that can help them acquire the bonding necessary to bid on large contracts or to purchase equipment needed to take on certain jobs. The city is working with lenders, including Eastern Bank, that can provide MWBEs with loans.

“We’re positioning the minority-owned businesses to make sure they’re competitive in the bidding process,” Barros said.

City departments will be required to report back to the OED, said Emme Handy, the city’s chief procurement officer.

“We ask them to identify who from the city’s directory they have reached out to,” she said.

The city’s process will help other large institutions in the Greater Boston area, Barros said, citing Northeastern University, which, in recent years, has struggled to connect local businesses with opportunities.

The Walsh administration has also established a Supplier Diversity Council — a team of 26 business and nonprofit activists who are tasked with making policy recommendations to the OED.

In addition to the new protocols for contracting with MWBEs outlined in Walsh’s executive order, the city is also conducting a disparity study to examine the participation of MWBEs in city contracting and measure the availability of such firms for city contracts.

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