By Ryan Velez
Black Enterprise reports that five cities are going to split a half-million dollars in grant money, with the purpose designed to help black- and women-owned firms land more contracts with local governments. The five cities in question are Charlotte, Chicago, Memphis, Milwaukee, and Los Angeles.
The grant money was given out as part of an expanded City Accelerator program, and over the course of the next year, the five cities will be collaborating to try and refine an approach to boost procurement spending with these businesses. These include pursuing a new strategy to increase the diversity of municipal vendors and contractors as well as direct buying goods and services from local minority-owned firms.
The funds are coming from the nonprofit agencies of Living Cities and the Citi Foundation, and the City Accelerator program started four years ago to try and spur development and create jobs in cities with many low-income residents. The cities will ultimately have the choice in what diverse businesses they choose to bring on, but opportunities range from local infrastructure work to providing retail services.
“These cities are taking a hard look at how they purchase goods and services for their communities,” Ed Skyler, Citi’s executive vice president for global public affairs and chairman of the Citi Foundation, stated in a press release. “They recognize that there is an opportunity to strengthen their procurement practices—and cities overall—by connecting directly with the diverse businesses and ideas within their communities.” Skyler is also a former deputy mayor of New York City.
Ben Hecht, president and CEO of Living Cities, also spoke on the subject. “These five cities were asked to lead the way, and we are excited to lift up their work as examples of how we can create a new urban practice dedicated to getting dramatically better results for low-income people faster.”
This grant goes hand in hand with efforts of some of the cities to try and improve their minority business situation. In 2014, Charlotte was ranked last in economic mobility among the 50 largest cities in the U.S, but today, it is making progress. “The City of Charlotte is committed to providing equal access and opportunities for all businesses to grow, especially businesses owned by people of color,” Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts, stated in a press release. “Through the City’s Charlotte Business Inclusion Policy, we have made significant strides, achieving $41 million in spending with local minority, women, small business enterprises in fiscal year 2016.”