Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Continuing Efforts to Increase Use of Minority Businesses on Public Works Projects

It's been more than a dozen years since the voters of the State of Washington approved Initiative 200 that prohibits the use of preferences in government contracting based on ethnicity or gender.

Contractors and Agencies Seeking Solutions:  Since the 1998 passage of Initiative 200, many minority and women owned businesses have struggled to obtain work on government contracts - especially during the Great Recession.  And many public agencies in the state are wrestling with how to provide opportunities for minority and women owned businesses on public works projects.

Two recent developments illustrate different approaches for increasing the use of women and minority businesses enterprises (WMBE) on public works projects.

City of Seattle's WMBE Inclusion Plan:  In late August 2011, the City of Seattle unveiled a new WMBE Inclusion Plan requirement for public works projects exceeding $300,000.  

Commitments with the Bid:  Bidders must make certain commitments for use of minority and women businesses with their bid.  Those commitments are evaluated through a formula to determine whether the bid is responsive or not. 

Use of WMBE Expert Required:  Bidders must also use an approved "WMBE Expert" who may be an employee of the contractor or a consultant from the list of City approved WMBE Experts. 

More Information:  For more information on Seattle's new WMBE Inclusion Plan requirements, click on the resources below:
WMBE as an Evaluation Factor on Alternative Public Works Projects:  On November 10, 2011, Washington's Capital Projects Advisory Review Board (CPARB) discussed recommendations from its Small Business Task Force.  

Small Business Task Force Recommendations:  The Task Force recommended making changes to RCW 39.10 by adding required evaluation criteria to be used by public agencies when selecting contractors for either Design-Build or GC/CM (General Contractor/Construction Manager) alternative public works projects.  The evaluation criteria would address the contractor's proposal plan for outreach and inclusion of WMBEs on the project, and demonstrate their past history in utilizing WMBEs on public works projects.

Next Steps for CPARB:  CPARB was generally supportive of the concept, but charged the Task Force with re-drafting the proposed changes in state law to address issues raised during the discussion.  The revised language will be considered by CPARB at its December 8, 2011 meeting.  If approved by CPARB, the changes would be recommended to the state legislature for their session that will convene in January 2012.
Mike Purdy's Public Contracting Blog 
© 2011 by Michael E. Purdy Associates, LLC 

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