Special to the Gazette
Mayor Michelle Wu joined City officials and local business owners to declare this week Supplier Diversity Week. She also announced progress toward reaching the City’s supplier diversity goals along with several initiatives to foster a fair and competitive marketplace by bolstering the operational capabilities of Boston-based businesses historically excluded from competing for City contracts. Through additional investments in staffing and technology improvements, the City hopes to build on the progress made in Fiscal Year 2023 and further increase its discretionary spending with diverse firms towards its aspirational goal of 25 percent.
In an effort to further create transparency around supplier diversity and share the City’s progress, the Office of Economic Opportunity and Inclusion (OEOI), Departments of Supplier Diversity (DSD), and Procurement Department will soon release a report on equity in City contracting. The City of Boston awarded contracts valued at a total of $151 million, or 14 percent, to certified MWBEs during the 2023 Fiscal Year, which represents a substantial increase from 6 percent in the 2022 Fiscal Year. The City awarded a total of $1.08 billion in contracts that began in the 2023 Fiscal Year.
“This is about making more opportunities for all of our City residents, not just for the entrepreneurs and employees who will be directly impacted, but also the rest of the communities who will feel that ripple effect of when small, local businesses in Boston get to grow to their full potential,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “We know we have to stay together as one community, keeping all of us accountable when it comes to supplier diversity and pushing all of us to do more.”
“Ensuring that a greater share of City contracts are awarded to local, small, diverse firms has been a top priority because Mayor Wu and our team know that the development of some communities cannot coexist with the underdevelopment of others,” said Chief of Economic Opportunity and Inclusion Segun Idowu. “I am grateful for the hard work of the Supplier Diversity and Procurement teams who are both ensuring that existing local firms have an opportunity to work with the City, as well as building the pipeline of new companies that can seek similar work through our SCALE program.”
“We know that our purchasing power is just that – power that we can use to build generational wealth in our neighborhoods and support small, local, and diverse businesses,” said Chief Financial Officer and Chief Procurement Officer Ashley Groffenberger. “Under the leadership of Mayor Wu and in deep partnership with Chief Idowu, I am proud of the work we have undertaken to expand our reach and impact in advancing the City’s supplier diversity goals.”
“I went from having zero contracts in Boston to being awarded contracts worth nearly one million dollars in the course of a year,” said Rose Staram, owner and founder of RoseMark Production, who received a contract through the Sheltered Market Program. “This highlights the transformative power of seizing opportunities for people of color and women, which the Mayor and her executive leadership team has made possible. The Mayor’s Office has actively pursued the simple, but not easy task of leveling the playing field in the world of contracting. It is a testament to her ability to overcome obstacles, build connections, and prove our worth as women and people of color. We are forever grateful for this program.”
As part of Supplier Diversity Week efforts, the City today announced several new initiatives, including the Supplying Capital and Leveraging Education (SCALE) program to support small, local businesses with technical assistance, educational programming, consulting services, and grant funding using the Contracting Opportunity Fund and America Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. These initiatives aim to build generational wealth and opportunity for local minority business enterprises (MBE’s), women business enterprises (WBE’s), veteran business enterprises, and LGBTQ+business enterprises.
Mayor Wu announced the release of a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the Supplying Capital and Leveraging Education (SCALE) business accelerator program. The RFP will utilize $2.4 million of the $9 million in American Rescue Plan funding allocated for this program to support industry-specific technical assistance, educational programming, and consulting services. It is designed to connect small businesses, particularly disadvantaged firms who face challenges accessing financial capital, business resources, and essential knowledge, with the tools needed to compete for public, private, and institutional contracts.
The RFP seeks partners who will work collaboratively with the Department of Supplier Diversity to empower small businesses in specific industry sectors, ranging from snow removal to HVAC services. The priority industry sectors were chosen because they represent areas of high City spending. With the goal of supporting at least 18 small, Boston-based businesses in its first year, the SCALE program will provide business participants with the tools, training, and significant capital to address key capacity issues that prevent smaller businesses from competing for larger government and institutional contracts.
As part of Mayor Wu’s pledge to make Boston a Green New Deal City, the RFP also emphasizes the City’s preference for proposals that can help participants adopt cost-effective solutions aligned with environmental sustainability goals by contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
Interested firms are encouraged to carefully review the RFP and submit their proposals in accordance with the outlined guidelines. For more information and to access the RFP, please scan the QR code..
Contracting Opportunity Fund
Mayor Wu also announced that 51 local, minority- and women-owned businesses have received grants from the City of Boston’s 2023 Contracting Opportunity Fund. The Contracting Opportunity Fund is an initiative that supports capacity building investments for Boston-based businesses.
This marks the fund’s third consecutive year of grantmaking, demonstrating the City’s ongoing commitment to facilitating small business participation in and competition for municipal contracts. Using American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, the Department of Supplier Diversity recently disbursed approximately $750,000 in grants of up to $15,000, focusing on six priority sectors that represent areas of high municipal spending.
Of the 51 businesses chosen to receive grant funding this year, 31 percent are women-owned and 78 percent are minority-owned, with Black-owned businesses comprising over half of recipients. Over half of recipients are also small businesses and a combined 45 percent of grant recipients’ businesses are located in the neighborhoods of Dorchester and Roxbury.
“I have a couple of painting jobs coming up, and I had to use all of my savings to secure the contract. Essentially, I am still in business because of the Boston Contracting Opportunity Fund Grant,” said Bryant Williams, the owner of BWilliams Painting Company. “I will be able to pay for some insurance, part of my business mortgage, and equipment. There is no way I would have recovered from my deficit if not for this grant, which kept me afloat and allowed me to fulfill my contract with Northern Contracting, a partner I’ve been contracting with for years. This is truly a blessing.”
The Boston Contracting Opportunity Fund grant was first announced in the spring of 2021, designed through extensive dialogues and community conversations with small, diverse business owners to address barriers in public contracting identified in the City’s 2020 Disparity Study. The study confirmed that businesses owned by women and people of color are widely available to perform City contracts, but are substantially underrepresented in the City’s spending on construction, professional services, and goods.
The selection process was rigorous, involving a thorough review of applications by the Department of Supplier Diversity and external partners, including the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts (BECMA), Amplify LatinX, and the Local Enterprise Assistance Fund (LEAF). Businesses were evaluated based on their ability to meet specific eligibility criteria and their proposed uses of the capacity-building fund. Funds may be used to invest in capacity-building activities such as the purchasing of new equipment, expanding rental space, and acquiring bonding or insurance, among other uses.
Supplier Diversity Compact
At today’s press conference, Mayor Wu and local small business support organizations signed “A Compact to Build Local Economic Growth.” Through this compact, the City and its partners commit to implementing the following principles of supplier diversity and small business growth: awareness of resources, certification to strengthen the pipeline of qualified businesses ready to work with the City, engagement with firms and local stakeholders, policy development to codify successful practices, and transparency.
As part of Supplier Diversity Week, the City is hosting a series of in-person and virtual workshops for small business owners. More information can be found here.
The Department of Supplier Diversity (DSD) of the City of Boston is dedicated to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in City contracting. DSD certifies businesses owned by people of color, women, veterans, and small and local businesses, and manages programs to encourage their participation in public contracting and foster their growth.