The city of Cincinnati is making progress when it comes to contracting with businesses owned by women and minorities.
It's just not happening fast enough.
That's according to Mayor John Cranley, who created an Economic Inclusion Advisory Council in February to try to figure out where the city can boost spending with women- and minority-owned companies.
"The numbers are getting better, but they're not good enough," Cranley told WCPO in an exclusive interview. "We're still far short of where we need to be."
The city's minority contracting results have been under fire for years. Cranley's advisory council marks the third time since 2009 that officials have undertaken a major effort to improve the city's dismal minority contracting numbers.
Cranley highlighted the issue during his campaign for mayor, arguing that strong women- and minority-owned businesses were a critical part of any thriving city.
The city has a Small Business Enterprise, or SBE, program. City officials measure success based on contracts awarded to companies that are certified as small businesses with the city. Those certifications are based on the size of the businesses and the net worth of their owners and do not take race or gender into account.
City officials track their spending with businesses owned by women and minorities when the business owners provide that information voluntarily. But businesses are not required to provide it.
Even so, the city has faced considerable pressure from the public and business leaders to boost its spending with women and minorities, who make up a large percentage of the city's population but win a tiny fraction of the total contracts awarded.
Between Jan. 1 and March 31 of this year, for example:
• The city spent nearly $70 million on various products and services.
• Of that total, the city spent about $1.8 million, or 2.6 percent, with small businesses owned by African-Americans.
• The city spent about $2.6 million, or 3.2 percent, with small companies owned by white women.
• In all, the city spent roughly $10.4 million, or 18.5 percent, with certified SBEs. That includes businesses owned by minorities, white women and white men.
"We've done a great job of meeting the SBE goals over many years, which is good," Cranley said. "But we clearly campaigned on the belief that our contracting policies should reflect the diversity of the city."
Insiders can read more about how the Economic Inclusion Advisory Council aims to do that, what members of the council think of the work and the other efforts the city has underway to improve the its contracting results with women- and minority-owned businesses.
Become a WCPO Insider to read about the progress the city has made in contracting women- and minority-owned businesses.