For the past two years, the City of St. Petersburg has contracted with Mason Tillman Associates, Ltd. to conduct a study that will determine if there is a disparity between business owners and the city.
Officially, the city website reads, “The disparity study will identify challenges for minority- and women-owned businesses in doing business with the City of St. Petersburg.”
“It’s obvious there is a disparity,” said Erik Smith, the owner of Inclusivity, LLC, a Black-owned consulting organization in St. Petersburg. “Very few minority-owned businesses can get contracts with the city.”
This series of surveys and interviews focuses exclusively on minority- and women-owned companies, and could potentially lead to a city-run enterprise program specifically created to assist business owners depending on the results.
“Hopefully this will trigger a way marginalized communities can get a minority inclusivity program,” Smith said. “There needs to be a space for that.”
According to project manager Jessica Eilerman, the analysis will be completed by the end of the first quarter of 2021.
“It was time the city started having a conversation with the community and seeing where any issues lie,” Eilerman said. “It’s been 20 years since the last study.”
It was the early 2000’s when the city launched a disparity study that led to the creation of the Small Business Enterprises program.
The program, created in 2002, provides opportunities for small businesses and assists with contracting and procurement opportunities.
The current study could launch a gender- and race-specific project with the same mission.
“Conducting studies like these are a way we can start to mandate changes,” Eilerman said. “There will be a race- and gender-specific set of recommendations from the consultant that the city will consider once we have the final report.”
The Nuts and Bolts
Mason Tillan, a California-based disparity study consultant, is looking at minority-owned business contracts granted by the city of St. Petersburg from October 1, 2014 to September 30, 2018.
The city wants to see how many women-owned and minority-owned businesses were able to bid on city contracts in that time period.
The three types of businesses being considered are construction, professional services, and goods and services.
According to Eilerman, a majority of this analysis was completed via a community survey that was closed this month.
“We are moving along pretty well,” Eilerman said. “It is looking like the end of April or beginning of May that we will have our final report.”
For more information visit stpete.org/with_the_city/disparity_study.php.