More city contracts awarded to marginalized firms

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia is getting better at steering city contracts to minority- and women-owned businesses, according to the Office of Economic Opportunity’s annual report

Deputy Commerce Director Iola Harper says that in the last fiscal year, which ended in July, Philadelphia—for the first time—met its goal for contracting with historically disadvantaged firms.

“35% of every for-profit dollar was spent with a minority-, woman- or disabled-owned business,” she declared.

Harper credited constant outreach both to city departments and the business community. “I’ve had some subcontractors tell me that they really feel a difference out in the field,” she said, “with prime contractors wanting to engage them more so I’m kind of excited.”

She explained that represents $254 million in contracts, actually $25 million less than the total for the previous year but a higher percentage because city contracting decreased last year. The total also included one very large contract for facilities maintenance that has since been awarded to a non-minority firm. Harper admitted that will make it challenging to meet the goal next year.

“It’s my hope that initiatives like Rebuild will make up for some of the dollars that are lost,” she said. “So I don’t anticipate a big loss but we may remain flat.”

Harper acknowledged there’s a lot left to do but expressed hope this is the beginning of a cultural shift. This year also saw a shift in which group got more contracts: 23 percent went to minority-owned firms; 12 percent to women-owned firms.

“From the city’s perspective, we’re moving in the right direction,” she said. “Not fast enough, but we’re moving in the right direction.”

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