NEW ORLEANS, LA–Today, Mayor Mitch Landrieu was joined by City Council members and business leaders as he signed into law an ordinance that significantly reforms the City’s disadvantaged business enterprise (DBE) program to improve fairness and consistency and strengthen compliance with City’s overall 35% DBE participation goal for public contracts. Mayor Landrieu commended the New Orleans City Council and lead sponsor District D Councilmember Cynthia Hedge-Morrell for adopting the reforms, which aim to increase contracting opportunities for socially and economically disadvantaged business owners.
“If we want true prosperity for New Orleans, it’s essential that all of our businesses have opportunities to benefit from public and private investments in our city,” Mayor Landrieu said. “Since 2010, we’ve increased the number of certified DBEs by over 70% and we are now actively monitoring and improving compliance. There are strong DBE requirements for the billions of dollars hitting the ground with City, Airport, Sewerage and Water Board, and RTA projects. But we can do more, and with these reforms we are sending a strong signal that we’re serious about equity and shared prosperity.”
The reforms will strengthen program reporting and compliance requirements, streamline various processes and create penalties for non-compliance. The reforms will greatly enhance the City’s ability to hold contractors accountable for meeting the overall 35% DBE participation goal for public contracts, as established by an ordinance passed in 2010.
Councilmember Hedge-Morrell said, “I am extremely happy the administration has joined us in supporting this Disadvantaged Business Enterprise initiative. This is about leveling the playing field and giving our local, minority-owned businesses access to opportunities to grow and flourish. We’ve seen amazing success stories under the current program, but this ordinance will strengthen and reinforce our commitment to DBE goals. This is something we have been diligently working towards for several years, and I’m excited about this next step.”
District B Councilmember LaToya Cantrell said, “Strengthening our city’s DBE compliance measures is a matter that’s long overdue and I’m pleased to stand with other councilmembers today in supporting this important piece of legislation. I look forward to bringing all New Orleanians into our city’s economic fold and seeing the benefits of beefed up compliance and streamlined procedures for DBE-certified firms. I am pleased to see the collaboration between businesses, community stakeholders and elected officials to make this ordinance a reality.”
District E Councilmember James A. Gray II said, “Our city will not prosper unless all of our citizens – with preparation and hard work – share in the economic boom we see happening around us every day. This DBE legislation is a great step forward and will contribute mightily to the goal of economic opportunity for all.”
City Council President Jacquelyn Brechtel Clarkson said, “This city has worked on this for 20 years, but now we are doing it with everyone on board – to sustain!”
City Council Vice President Stacy Head said, “The Council has long-worked to strengthen our city's DBE laws and to make their application advantageous to a broader group in New Orleans. Inclusion and access to opportunities is key to New Orleans' sustainability and I am pleased to support this effort.”
District C Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer said, “This is a great day for small business owners and their employees, for city government and for communities across our city. It is crucial that the City of New Orleans do its absolute best to support our local minority and women-owned businesses through improved fair contracting practices. It is often these opportunities that allow our residents to build wealth and equity in their communities and ensure that New Orleans continues to have and grow its local economy.”
Since the Landrieu Administration established the Office of Supplier Diversity, the number of certified DBEs has doubled from about 300 to more than 600 local businesses. The City expanded DBE opportunities by allowing reciprocity from other established certification programs, including Harrah’s, the Sewerage & Water Board, Regional Transit Authority and Louis Armstrong International Airport. The Office of Supplier Diversity oversees certification, compliance, training, outreach and capacity building for local, small and disadvantaged businesses. Prior to the Landrieu administration, the City did not track DBE participation or performance; since tracking and compliance efforts began, DBE participation has risen from 16% to 34% in 2012.The City also launched Contractors College last year to teach contractors how to improve their businesses in areas such as banking, insurance and bonding, and has graduated 30 firms. The City also distributes a newsletter to more than 3000 small businesses in the area to keep them informed of contracting and networking opportunities in the city.
Don Harding, owner of Cool Fruit Sensations, a certified DBE, said, “For a long time, we felt like we were on the outside looking in, and missing out on a lot of opportunities. The City’s DBE program gave us access and information and now business is booming. We went from small fairs to large festivals, and now, thanks to being in the DBE program, we’re on the path to where we ultimately want to be, which is franchising.”
“This new law is a major milestone that demonstrates the City’s commitment to inclusion, fairness and accountability,” said Barbara Major, a member of a business advocacy group called The Collaborative. “As we continue rebuilding the community, it’s critically important to make sure our small and marginalized businesses are at the table and have opportunities for public work.” Major also serves as Chairwoman of the Regional Transit Authority (RTA)
"This administration has taken a strong stance on equity and is not afraid to say the word," said Judith Dangerfield, chair of the Economic Development Advisory Committee. "Access and opportunity are what creates equity, and good leadership makes that happen. I commend the Mayor and the City Council for the work they're doing to close the gap and create opportunities for greater prosperity for the community.”
The ordinance maintains the City’s overall 35% DBE participation goal and improves the program in key areas. The new law will:
Implement specific contract goals for each contract based on the availability of DBEs in the relevant market sector. The ordinance maintains the overall goal of 35% DBE participation, but allows for the goal to be higher or lower as determined on a project-by-project basis;
Establish sanctions for non-compliance for prime and DBE subcontractors that could include termination of contracts with the City. This will allow the City to enforce firm penalties for noncompliance;
Strengthen the City’s Good Faith Efforts policy by establishing clear guidelines and implementing strict parameters of acceptability;
Expand opportunities for the City’s list of certified DBE firms by the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority’s (NORA) commitment to utilize certified DBEs disposing of 25 or more residential properties;
Ensure accountability by tracking DBE goals and attainment rates in reports submitted with annual budget requests;
Expressly recognize the Office of Supplier Diversity’s review of contracts being amended to better ensure the commitment of DBE participation; and
Increase monitoring of and impose restrictions on DBE substitutions.
The Administration will solidify policy revisions to implement these ordinances and enhance the efforts of the City’s Office of Supplier Diversity, which oversees certification, compliance, training, outreach and capacity building for local, small and disadvantaged businesses in New Orleans. The office was created to help mitigate the effects of past and present social and economic disadvantage and discrimination by increasing the utilization of certified disadvantaged business enterprises in the procurement of goods and services by the City of New Orleans. The office is working actively to increase the numbers of DBE certified firms, and to expand the pool of companies competing for work with the City, and these changes will help those efforts.
For more information about the Office of Supplier Diversity, click here.