Eleanor Mason Ramsey, Ph.D., president of Mason Tillman, and attorney Don O’Bannon led the City of St. Petersburg’s disparity study.
Deirdre O’Leary, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — The City of St. Petersburg’s Small Business office hosted a Zoom presentation last week to showcase its disparity study. Mayor Rick Kriseman introduced the presentation, noting that a disparity study was performed last in the late 1990s. He claims that addressing disparity is a priority of his administration.
The city chose a prominent minority-owned consulting firm, Mason Tillman Associates Ltd., to look at data from 2014-18. Areas of contracts awarded were construction, professional services and goods and services. The study began in 2018 and is nearing completion.
Eleanor Mason Ramsey, Ph.D., president of Mason Tillman, and attorney Don O’Bannon led the presentation. According to Ramsey, the Oakland, Calif., based firm was founded in 1978 and has completed 146 disparity studies for public and private entities around the country. The studies aim to determine whether discrimination against minorities or women exists in awarding government contracts.
Mason Tillman Associates “uses data to drive diversity” and has three areas of focus: Disparity studies for government entities and private businesses, marketing and outreach “to communicate social responsibility goals,” and program development to increase participation by minorities and women.
Disparity studies grew out of a 1989 Supreme Court case, City of Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co. Hence the studies are known as “Croson studies.” The case established criteria by which discrimination could be established using statistical tests.
A key test is the disparity ratio: Utilization divided by Availability. In other words, actual dollars spent on contracts compared to the expected contract dollars.
“Availability” refers to the capacity of minority or women-owned businesses registered with the city and apply for contracts. It’s not as straightforward as minority-owned businesses receiving a proportional share of contracts.
The businesses must have the capacity to handle them as well. Presumably, they would need to be of sufficient size, measured by sales volume or another measure.
In addition to reviewing the statistics, there is a critical component of the study called Anecdotal Analysis, which includes surveying minority and women-owned businesses to find out what their experience has been doing business with the city.
Businesses can be prime contractors or subcontractors. Currently, the study is in this phase and is soliciting responses from local businesses. The e-survey can be found at https://www.tfaforms.com/4864728. It will close in two weeks. The firm expects to present the final report to the mayor’s office in the first quarter of 2021.
The city’s purchasing manager, Karen Dewar, also presented some information on how businesses can find city contracts. A summarized list of solicitations is available to the public, but a company must register with the city to get the entire solicitation.
Dewar emphasized that the procurement department wants to help businesses navigate the system. You can find them on StPete.org by clicking the business tab.
Goods and services purchased by the city:
Click here to register as a city vendor and for more information.
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