City disposes of business program that catered to women-and-minority-owned businesses; starts neutral small business program
By Yudislaidy Fernandez
The City of Miami abolished its pro-women-and-minority business program last week — eight years after a court forced Miami-Dade County to do the same.
The City Commission on Thursday (7/10) tossed out the business enterprise program it adopted in 1985 that set aside portions of city contracts for women and minorities. It then gave initial approval for a new race-and-gender neutral program that gives contract preferences to small businesses located within the city.
"This is something the county reacted to a few years back when women and minorities ordinances were deemed unconstitutional," City Manager Pete Hernandez said.
City Attorney Julie Bru said concerns over constitutional legality led the city to abolish its law.
"We are adhering to that same ruling (that pertained to the county). I think this is almost like a clean up, we are just getting rid of it," said Ms. Bru, who was appointed as city attorney four months ago, replacing fired city attorney Jorge Fernandez.
The city had not been granting race and gender preferences on contracts since March of 2005, when the city attorney's office issued an opinion citing precedent-setting lawsuits.
Under the old program, at least 51% of the city's contracts and procurements were to benefit women-and minority-owned businesses with blacks, Hispanics and women splitting 17% each.
"The issue is that if you have a program to help small businesses you cannot segregate within the program," said Roger Hernstadt, assistant city manager.
Mr. Hernstadt said the new small business enterprise program is to provide open opportunities for qualifying small businesses located within city boundaries to participate in city contracts.
Some of the businesses that would qualify for the program's benefits are goods and services, architectural, engineering and construction companies.
The city's soon-to-be adopted program is to have a similar certification process to the county's Small Business Enterprise program.
Mr. Hernstadt said the county's program has been highly successful; in fiscal 2007, the county awarded $42 million of work and goods and services contracts to small businesses enrolled in the county's program.
When the city's program gets moving, Mr. Hernstadt will reach out to eligible business owners and encourage them to enroll through the mail and city Web site.
While Miami-based businesses already enrolled in the county's small business program will be automatically included in the city's newly-instituted one.
A program incentive: businesses that are awarded at least 25% of a project will get a 1% bonus (not to exceed $100,000) if the project is finished on time and within budget, Mr. Hernstadt said.
The small business program is set for final approval in September, giving the administration time to fine-tune the program, he said.
"It will require lots of ownership and attention by the city administration to make sure the program is successful."