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City revisits program for minority, women contractors (access required)

By Greg Lacour Charlotte city officials are considering resurrecting a program designed to steer a percentage of city contracts to minority and women-owned firms. Such programs are common in local and state government; North Carolina and Mecklenburg County already have them. But Charlotte dropped its gender and race-based program in 2002 after a lawsuit challenged its constitutionality. Since then, the city has run a program to ensure small, locally owned businesses win city work, but the program doesn’t consider race or gender in contract awards. They might come back into play depending on the results of a study the city has budgeted $310,000 for this year. The “disparity study” is designed to measure whether minority and women-owned companies win a disproportionately low percentage of city contract dollars compared with the overall market. The city’s last disparity study was in 2003. A 15-member task force that Mayor Anthony Foxx appointed in January to review the city’s Small Business Opportunity Program recommended that the city take a fresh look at whether a race or gender gap exists, using data from 2006 through this year.

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