City Increases Transactions with Disadvantaged Business Enterprises

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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City Increases Transactions with Disadvantaged Business Enterprises

Posted: 12/14/2009
The City of Knoxville significantly increased the amount of business it conducted with minority and women-owned firms last year recording what's believed to be its highest rate of transactions ever with what are sometimes referred to as Disadvantaged Business Enterprises, or DBEs.

The increase also brings the city within striking distance of achieving its long-held goal of doing at least 10 percent of its total business with women-owned and minority-owned businesses.

According to its "Equal Business Opportunity Program Report: FY 2008-2009" Knoxville paid DBEs a combined total of $6.58 million for various goods and services during Fiscal Year 2009. That translates into 8.5 percent of the nearly $77 million the city paid vendors during the year.

It marked a considerable increase over the 2008 figures when the city paid minority and women-owned firms about $4.1 for goods and services. Knoxville's Equal Business Opportunity Program, known as EBOP, is directed by Joshalyn Hundley.

EBOP was created in 1999 and works as an outreach program designed to increase minority, women and small businesses participation in competing for, and obtaining, city business. 
"We're very pleased with increases that we've seen in doing business with these companies over the last few years," Mayor Bill Haslam said. "But there is still work to be done and we're not going to be satisfied until we reached and exceeded the goal we've set for ourselves." 
By comparison the State of Tennessee did a little more than 10 percent of its transactions with women and minority-owned firms in 2008.

The city only has reliable figures on transactions with DBE's dating back to 2002-2003 when it did a little more than five percent of its total business with them. Knoxville has seen consistent increases in the amount since then and particularly after Haslam took office and set the 10 percent goal.

The mayor has encouraged individual department heads to try and attain the 10 percent mark within their departments.

As part of the effort the city, with the help of sponsors, began holding a series of seminars aimed at giving small businesses, including DBEs, the financial tools to better compete for city business.

The City of Knoxville does not consider gender or race when awarding contracts.

The city has also hosted events where small businesses can meet with large companies seeking subcontractors and with federal agencies that have projects in the Knoxville area and this year initiated what will become an annual breakfast highlighting upcoming contract opportunities with the city. 
"We're trying to reach out to companies that maybe didn't seek city contracts in previous years, weren't aware of the opportunities, or felt like they couldn't compete for them," said Joshalyn Hundley, the city's EBOP coordinator. "We plan on continuing those outreach efforts because they have been successful and because we're really not that far from our goal." 
The largest segment of the city's business with DBE companies has been in the Goods & General Services category, accounting for $4.5 million of the total amount going to women and minority businesses.

The weakest segment is construction where DBE companies only received $796,665 in Fiscal Year 2009. That amounts to barely $1 for every $20 the city spent on construction projects that fiscal year. The city is encouraging large construction firms to increase the number of women and minority-owned firms it subcontracts with on various city projects.

During the current fiscal year, FY 2010, EBOP is continuing to take steps to increase women and minority-owned and small business participation in city projects by, among other programs:

Encouraging individual city departments to submit and achieve goals for more DBE and small business involvement in projects;
Supporting a Mentor/Protege program that pairs established companies with newer ones;
Increasing outreach efforts in areas ranging from using social networks to disseminate information to continuing to hold small business conferences aimed at helping small companies compete for city business;
Encouraging contractors to consider using DBE's as subcontractors