Mayor Harrell Issues Executive Order Expanding City Contracting Equity.
New Executive Order builds on existing efforts that drive economic empowerment and create pathways to grow generational wealth, particularly for women and minority owned firms.
Seattle – Today, Mayor Bruce Harrell was joined by the Department of Finance and Administrative Services (FAS), Women-and Minority Owned business (WMBEs) leaders, and community partners to sign a new Executive Order that expands contracting equity and access for businesses, particularly WMBEs, seeking contracting and procurement opportunities with the City of Seattle. Through Mayor Harrell’s new Executive Order, City departments will implement key actions that advance contracting equity and support women and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) owned firms that are disproportionally underutilized in public contracting opportunities.
Mayor Harrell signed the new Executive Order at the 2023 Reverse Vendor Trade Show – an annual City sponsored event attracting more than 600 businesses, including WMBEs, to network with and learn more about contracting and procurement opportunities with City departments and other public agencies. While BIPOC residents account for nearly 38 percent of the city’s population, BIPOC businesses earn only 14 percent of the City’s purchasing and contracting spend. The City’s WMBE program was created to help correct the historical and disproportionate underutilization of WMBE firms. As a result, spending with WMBE firms continues to consistently grow year over year. Of the City’s more than $900 million annual spend on goods and services, nearly $228 million was spent with WMBEs in 2022 for consulting services and contracting for public works projects. “One of the most direct and powerful ways the city can support our small businesses is through contracting opportunities for the goods and services we use. Through this Executive Order, we are codifying our commitment to create opportunities for women and minority-owned businesses, investing dollars back into their businesses, their employees, and the communities they serve who have not always had a seat at the table or a fair shot at this work,” said Mayor Harrell. “Through this executive order we are building on other tangible actions like the Liberty Project, Capital Access Program and Seattle Restored, that drive economic empowerment and create pathways to grow generational wealth, particularly for WMBE firms. The goal of this work is to advance our vision for One Seattle as an inclusive and equitable city where entrepreneurs and small businesses of all backgrounds can succeed.” The Executive Order focuses on six strategic priorities including:
engaging and partnering with the WMBE community,
expanding contracting equity for BIPOC-owned firms with a focus on Black-owned firms,
providing resources and support for WMBEs,
strengthening the city’s accountability and transparency mechanisms for WMBE support and equitable contracting,
ongoing improvement of city policies and practices, and
expanding contracting equity for historically underrepresented communities including LGBTQ, veteran, and immigrant owned firms and small businesses.
The Executive Order also reestablishes the mayor’s WMBE Advisory Committee,renewing the City’s commitment to partnering with WMBE and other community leaders with on-the-ground experience to identify and develop solutions to barriers businesses face in securing public works contracts. Additionally, the Executive Order advances work FAS and the city’s Innovation and Performance team is conducting to transform the City’s procurement process so that it is results driven, more accessible, and equitable. Seattle is one of two cities in the United States to be awarded a $1 million, two-year grant by the Bloomberg Center for Public Innovation and a fellow from the Harvard Government Performance Lab is working with the city to support this work. “As a member of the City’s WMBE Advisory Board, I have seen up close and personal, the commitment of Mayor Harrell to our small, minority, women, and veteran businesses’ development. The mayor understands contracting equity, and the fair and equitable inclusion of WMBEs in city government contracting processes is a critical issue today, with significant implications for the future of our communities and economies,” said Regina Glenn, president of Pacific Communications Consultants Inc. “The success of our city depends on our ability as a collective to build strong economies with capable local industries, and WMBEs who can play an important role in that success—but only if they are given an equitable opportunity to compete for city contracts.” The new Executive Order mandates that City departments regularly engage with the community to facilitate connections between WMBEs, particularly Black-owned businesses, and project managers and procurement professionals in City departments. Additionally, the Executive Order instructs the Finance and Administrative Services (FAS) department, responsible for overseeing the City's WMBE program and purchasing and contracting services, to develop an action plan for implementing recommendations resulting from an ongoing citywide disparity impact study. “I’m thankful to Mayor Harrell for his commitment to this work, to the FAS staff and community leaders who’ve helped shepherd it, and to the WMBE businesses owners who’ve shared their time and lived experience to make this work more equitable,” said Kiersten Grove, Department of Finance and Administrative Services Acting Director. “This Executive Order will lead to real and tangible differences in removing barriers that exist when working with the city and, ultimately, it will invest back in Seattle communities.” What Others Are Saying Councilmember Sara Nelson, Chair of Council’s Economic Development Committee, Position 9 “As a Seattle small business owner, I can't overstate how important this kind of support is. I have seen our local business community at its highest highs and through its most challenging times. What I know is that our city is at our best when we support each other, and right now women- and minority- owned businesses need our support. This Executive Order does that by increasing equity, opportunity, and the strength of our local economy.” Markham McIntyre Director, Seattle Office of Economic Development “Policies that are representative of our BIPOC businesses and drive equitable change, from the individual to regional level, create meaningful and successful pathways that are crucial to closing the racial wealth gap. This Executive Order, coupled with the City’s Future of Seattle Economy framework for revitalizing our economy equitably, will offer technical assistance and programs as a continuum of real estate, finance, and market expansion strategies to support BIPOC businesses, grow our economy, and make it more inclusive,” Dr. Gillian Marshall, Owner of Dynamic and Innovative Research Solutions “As a Black woman business owner fortunate to contract with the City of Seattle, I've witnessed firsthand the transformative power of prioritizing equity in contracting. The City’s commitment to working with Women and Minority Business Enterprises (WMBEs) as evidenced by this Executive Order will not only increase the WMBE applicant pool but should also increase the number of WMBEs securing contracting opportunities with the city. This will ensure a more diverse and inclusive business community for a One Seattle.” Ollie Garrett, President and CEO of PMT Solutions and Tabor 100 “I want to point out that the Executive Order specifically notes that Black-owned firms are less likely to participate in city contracting than other minority businesses. Minority businesses hire from their specific communities, meaning support to Black businesses especially supports the Black community. Supporting Black businesses aids the Black community to address a significant net worth gap (20 times), higher unemployment and generally lower wages when compared to the majority population.” Karla Malacon, President & CEO of Northwest Mountain Minority Supplier Development Council "As a strategic partner to the City of Seattle, we support the direction the City is headed. The City’s expansion of equity in City contracting with women- and minority owned businesses (WMBEs) is the first step towards building equitable contracting opportunities, community economic development, and wealth creation for our communities of color. Contracting with WMBEs isn't about meeting quotas, it's about embracing the wealth of talent and ideas within our community, forging a path to equitable opportunities, wealth, and independence."