The Fort Worth City Council heard from Gwen Wilson, assistant director in the diversity and inclusion department, on Nov. 7 about the status of equity when it comes to the city’s procurement process.

The context

Municipal procurement departments, which are also referred to as purchasing departments, manage the way cities buy goods and services.

Wilson said that the city’s business equity program was born out of a disparity study in which the goal was to discover any disparities in the city’s procurement process.

“We have a narrowly tailored program that is race conscious,” Wilson said. “We found that minority and women-owned business enterprises were not equitably getting contracts.”

Wilson said that by tracking how much the city spends with these groups, city officials have been able to make inroads into increasing procurement activity when it comes to these types of businesses. Some statistics include:
  • The spend rate was less than 1% with African American businesses in 2019. In 2022, that number increased to 6%
  • The goal for 2023 with regard to Hispanic businesses was 9.20%. Wilson said they exceeded that goal with a rate of 9.84%
Wilson added that while the total number of contracts that were awarded to minority or women-owned businesses fell to 17% in 2023 from 20% in 2022, a deeper dive was necessary to get the full story behind those percentages.

“We may have given out more contracts, but the value of those contracts were significantly less,” Wilson said.

A closer look

For District 6 City Councilmember Jared Williams, the goal is to have business equity in procurement be proportional to the demographic representation of the city. He asked Wilson what her department was doing to make that happen.

Wilson responded that the department’s goal isn’t based on demographics. Rather, it’s based on the availability of business equity firms in the marketplace.

“The study was instrumental in showing us how many [minority or women-owned businesses] are within the marketplace,” Wilson said. “[The business equity goal is] based on strictly how many firms are located within that area by ethnicity.”

To increase the advocacy for these types of businesses in Fort Worth, Wilson said that the city’s business equity program staff networks with groups throughout North Texas and have participated in over 100 advocacy events in the past two years.

Quote of note

“This is a huge opportunity for us to continue building on that progress by ensuring that we’re helping to incubate businesses so that we can continue to move the needle on these goals,” Williams said.