Calling on Boston to Diversify Public Contracts

Economic Justice

Minority Contractors, Community Groups, and Legal Leaders Call on the City of Boston to Diversify Public Contracts

In an open letter a broad-based coalition of organizations and community leaders called upon Mayor Martin Walsh and the City of Boston to take immediate steps to ensure greater participation of Minority- and Women- Business Enterprises (M/WBEs) in its public contracts.

Citing reports that in 2018 less than 1% of the $664 million awarded annually for Boston city contracts went to M/WBEs, the letter highlights that many cities have successfully engaged M/WBEs. For example:

  • New York City, NY achieved 19% M/WBE participation in FY 2018
  • Cook County (Chicago), IL achieved 29% M/WBE participation in FY 2017
  • Philadelphia, PA achieved 30.7% M/WBE participation in FY 2016.

Even close to home, we have excellent examples of public projects where proactive steps have led to significant M/WBE participation, including Massport’s progressive inclusion efforts for the Omni Hotel Project in the Boston seaport.

Ten concrete recommendations are outlined in the letter, including the following proactive and practical solutions that can be successfully and immediately implemented without legal or bureaucratic red tape:

  • Breaking down large prime contracts into smaller pieces that smaller companies can successfully compete for. This also has the advantage of increasing competition, thus resulting in better prices for the City.
  • Establishing small or local business programs that provide incentives and/or subcontracting requirements for small or local businesses. Since M/WBEs are disproportionately small, a small or local business program will often increase M/WBE participation.
  • Creating a publicly accessible dashboard and scorecard for transparency and accountability with respect to progress on M/WBEs, as a means for city officials, the M/WBE community, and the public to see where progress is being made and where more work needs to be done.

Minority contractors, legal leaders, and community groups call on the City to take meaningful action to strengthen its equity efforts, and to eliminate obstacles that exist for the City’s diverse business community. We stand ready to support the City of Boston, if it has the political will, to make life-changing policy reforms that fuel the growth of small businesses – the economic engines of our Commonwealth.

The letter to the City of Boston is available here:

Open Letter on MBE and WBE Participation in Boston City Contracts