The city of Nashville will revise the rules governing how it awards government contracts so that more of them go to businesses owned by women and minorities, as well as small businesses.
The changes announced Wednesday respond to a study released this fall that found major disparities in Metro contracting and a lack of meaningful inclusion efforts.
Mayor David Briley said those findings showed the city passively discriminates against companies.
“Clearly, this is wrong, and something that we as a community have an obligation to fix,” Briley said. “Every qualified minority- and women-owned business in our town will have a fair shot at getting Metro business.”
The mayor and several council members announced a package of reforms, including:
- a shift away from a race- and gender-neutral procurement method to a process that does factor in race and gender when evaluating bids;
- setting annual diversity targets for who Metro does business with, and;
- making some government projects open only to small businesses, as federally defined.
Officials are also promising more oversight and accountability, which Briley described as finally “putting teeth into our procurement program.” Procurement officials will be checking that contractors and subcontractors are what they say they are.
“This is long overdue. This is the right thing at the right moment,” said Councilwoman Tanaka Vercher, one of three black council members sponsoring the reforms, which still need council approval.
“This is about removing barriers. This is no more excuses,” she said.
As part of the overhaul, Metro will also be reaching out to diverse businesses. And they’re asking several chambers of commerce to help member companies bid on city contracts.
Briley Identifies No. 1 Priority
In making the announcement, Briley provided one of his most direct statements about the priorities of his administration, calling “equitable opportunity” the “single most important priority to this administration, [and] to me personally.”
“I’m not going to rest — our city is not going to rest — until I can see that Metro is spreading the wealth to every single corner of our community,” Briley said.
In the spring, Briley’s first executive order also addressed Metro contracting. At that time, he created the 19-member Minority Business Advisory Council to meet quarterly to study how the city can aid minority entrepreneurs in accessing capital and talent.