bill_diggs_web_fc.jpgMIAMI – Phase 1 of a study of Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) to determine if there were disparities between the availability and utilization of minority and women-owned (M/WBE) business enterprises is complete.

The study, which reviews data from the period of July 2006 through June 2012, shows a disparity did exist in construction contracting at the prime level; however, this was due, in large part, to a lack of availability of prequalified African-American prime contractors, the study suggests, and not as a result of district policy or practices.

“That’s absurd,” said Bill Diggs, former president and CEO of the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce. “We had launched an outreach program and sometimes the proper staff was not available to register the people who attended. We had the director of the program arrive one and a half hours late at their facility and the people who were there to register left.”

MGT of America Inc., a nationally recognized management and research-consulting firm, was commissioned last March to conduct the study. The study, which focused on capital construction and architecture/engineering services, was the subject of a Nov. 26 School Board Workshop.

The district’s practice of promoting M/WBE contracting goals at the sub-contractor level resulted in a utilization rate in this category, which closely aligns with the racial demographics of Miami-Dade County as a whole.

Also, during the period between July 2008 and June 2012, the rate of African-American participation in sub-contracting ranged between 18.5 percent and 27.2 percent. This was a marked increase from July 2006 through June 2008, when the average participation rate was 10.1 percent.

“The rich and the wealthy white people send their kids to private school,” Diggs said, “so having a participation rate that aligns with the demographics of the county isn’t what they should be striving for. They should try to reach the base of individuals serving their schools.”

During the period from July 2008 through June 2012, M/WBE participation was an average of 79.4 percent, in contrast with July 2006 through June 2008, when the average rate of participation was 55.3 percent.

Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho said the draft would be reviewed by the Small Business Enterprise (SBE) Review Committee, District Auditors, 21st Century School Bond Advisory Committee, and independent economic and legal consultants.

“We will continue to aggressively implement SBE policy,” said Carvalho. “We will use this economic data as a basis for respectful and inclusive policy that advantages all sectors of our community, rectifies historic disparity, while living up to the best business ideals.”

The study credited the district’s policy of consistently promoting M/WBE utilization through construction management at-risk and the establishment of M/WBE goals as the main factors leading to this outcome.

MGT further recommended that the district sustain these inclusionary practices to ensure that regression in minority participation does not occur in what has become a leading model for other public agencies working to promote economic equity within their business practices.

Hasan Shabazz, a member of the Afrocentric International Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that saying they can’t find qualified minority businesses to assign contracts to is an excuse to not award contracts to black businesses.

“If they are looking for black-owned businesses in Miami-Dade or South Florida, we can identify and assist them,” Shabazz said.

Representatives from MGT were present at the workshop and provided a detailed overview of the study, its findings and recommendations.

Phase two of the disparity study will include the procurement of services and goods.

*Pictured above is Bill Diggs.