City Council Amends DBE Program in Effort to Better Serve Minority-Owned Businesses

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At its Jan. 28 meeting, the New Orleans Council approved an ordinance that will rename, restructure, and simplify the City’s DBE program. Now called the Equitable Business Opportunities Program, the changes are designed to increase the program’s effectiveness and address deeply-rooted economic disparities faced by local minority-owned businesses. 

Key updates and improvements to the program include: 

  • Requiring the City to maintain a public registry of all businesses or individuals through the Equitable Business Opportunities (EBO) Program;
  • Setting an overall equity goal of 35 percent for public contracts awarded by City agencies, boards and commissions;
  • Requiring the City’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) to submit EBO program reports to the Council by Oct. 15 of each year; and
  • Requiring each City agency, board and commission submit annual reports to the Council by Oct. 1 of each year.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell also recently took steps to improve accountability and result in the city’s efforts to ensure that minority-owned businesses are getting their fair share of city contracts by moving the Office of Supplier Diversity under the Finance Department–a move that leaders say will allow the Finance Department to have early involvement in the supplier diversity and procurement processes and to better assess the performance of prime and subcontractors.

To be sure, an equity study released in 2019 that examined just how well minority and women-owned businesses were faring in both the public and private arenas in New Orleans indicated that there was room for improvement.

According to the report, conducted by Keen Independent Research — an economic research firm that specializes in disparity studies, minority-owned general contractor firms received only 2.6 percent of the contract dollars for public and commercial projects in the New Orleans metropolitan area, less than 14.5 percent that might be expected from the availability of minority-owned general contractors for this work. Furthermore, only 1 percent of these contract dollars went to African American-owned companies.

“This ordinance to restructure our DBE program – and rename it our Equitable Business Opportunities Program will help to keep funding in our city and support our minority and women-owned businesses,” said District E Councilwoman Cyndi Nguyen, who co-authored the ordinance with Councilwoman-at-large Helena Moreno. “In creating processes for more transparency and reporting, we will be able to better track our progress towards the goal of increasing the percentage of funding that stays in our own communities.”