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Mayor LaToya Cantrell recently announced  the restructuring of the city’s procurement process to improve supplier diversity when it comes to awarding and tracking contracts to local businesses.

It is a move leaders say will improve and better track procurement opportunities for women- and minority-owned businesses. And it is one that we applaud.

Joining Mayor Cantrell for the announcement of the restructuring were Chief Financial Officer, Norman White; Public Works Director Keith LaGrange; Capital Projects Directors Vincent A. Smith, Director; Chief Procurement Officer Julien Meyer; Executive Director of the New Orleans Regional Black Chamber of Commerce, Laverne Saulny; and Julius Feltus, senior advisor to the Mayor and member of the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Planning Commission.

Mayor Cantrell’s announcement came on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day and one day before the Infrastructure Industry Day Teleconference, during which city leaders discussed the ways businesses can get involved in the millions of dollars of infrastructure improvements happening throughout New Orleans. For more information on those projects, visit roadwork.nola.gov.

The restructuring includes moving the Office of Supplier Diversity under the Finance Department. City officials say this move will allow the Finance Department to have early involvement in the supplier diversity and procurement processes and allow all involved to assess the performance of both prime contractors and Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs) in prior contracting, which should lead to a more effective process with improved accountability.

“Ensuring that both the Office of Supplier Diversity and the Office of Procurement are under Finance will lead to a more effective and efficient process that will provide more opportunities for our women- and Black-owned businesses who previously have felt left out of the contracting process.,” Mayor Cantrell says. “We are making City Hall a more equitable place to do business and resolving one of the key issues we learned from our transition report when I came into office.”

Camille Hazeur, director of the Office of Supplier Diversity, says the move will put the office in a position to support the growth of economic opportunities for businesses and workers .

“We are enhancing research tools so that we can really know where waivers and single-source contracts may signal that we need to spur on the creation of new businesses,” Hazeur says. “We will continue to work to support BuildNOLA and partnering with the Chambers, the Urban League, and with our own City economic and community programs designed to prepare for a larger, skilled workforce.”

The City will continue to work with Build NOLA, the training program that allows small businesses to learn about all aspects of creating and sustaining a business. The City also plans to partner with the local chambers of commerce to increase participation in new training programs. The City also has found a way to link its BRASS purchasing system with the Business-to-Government (B2G) Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) tracking program so that compliance officers will know immediately who has been paid and who has not been paid.

“We are proud to work with the Administration to create policies and processes that create equitable contracting in our city,” says District E Councilwoman Cyndi Nguyen. “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that minority- and women-owned businesses are the most vulnerable to the economic downturn affecting our country, and we must do all we can to preserve and build up the local businesses that make our city unique.”

To be sure, anything that can be done to ensure that Black-owned and other DBE businesses are positioned to get their fair share of lucrative city contracts is welcomed, along with efforts to help ensure that Black-owned businesses are successful. When Black-owned businesses grow, Black communities are strengthened. 

In a city that is majority African-American, the success of Black-owned businesses means success for the entire city.