From Left: Harris County Pct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia, Port Houston Commissioner Cheryl Creuzot, Houston Minority Supplier Diversity Council President Ingrid Robinson, Port Houston Executive Director Roger Guenther, President and CEO of the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Dr. Laura Murillo, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, Port Houston Commissioner and Business Equity Committee Chair Wendy Montoya-Cloonan, Harris County Commissioner Pct 1 Rodney Ellis, and U.S. Small Business Administration District Director Tim Jeffcoat.

On the heels of the recent unveiling of the Port Houston new MWBE Business Equity program, Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis is calling for an Annual MWBE Accountability Report.  

As the lead proponent demanding that government entities like Harris County, METRO, Port of Houston and others conduct disparity studies, the findings have revealed a miniscule number of contracts going to Minority and Women businesses (MWBEs).  As a result, new initiatives are being implemented to change the culture of these government entities and focus on diversity, equity and inclusion.

Ellis believes this is a prime time to consider doing an Annual MWBE Accountability Report to ensure progress is being made and celebrated. 

“People ought to ask the question…What are your numbers? Show us your numbers and let’s see what progress we have made,” said Commissioner Ellis. 

Ellis suggested that Black, Hispanic and Women chambers along with the NAACP, Urban League and other should combine their effort and every year request the contract numbers from all the government and quasi-government entities. He pointed out that Fort Bend County voted to do a disparity study and Harris Health is currently doing a similar study. 

Encouraging Black owned businesses to get ready, Ellis said, “This is an ‘Atlanta Moment’ when you think about the Port having a program, the County having one, and Harris Health is doing a disparity study. That’s a tremendous opportunity.” 

Port Houston recently initiated a new MWBE Business Equity Program to address the 2020 disparity study findings of less than 90% of contracts with minority and women owned businesses.  

Described as a “historic” program by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and “forward-looking” by Port Houston Executive Director Roger Guenther, the new MWBE initiative and Diversity Equity Inclusion efforts has set an aggressive 30% aspirational goal for participation and a marketing plan to get the word out. 

According to sources, this is a culture shift on the part of Port Houston to more directly address the issues of diversity equity and inclusion. This process will evaluate all the Port’s programs inside and out.  Even though the previous Port Houston Small business program is still in place and is race and gender neutral, the MWBE Business Equity Program will make a difference beyond the procurement and contracting processes.

Details regarding the program can be found at: : https://porthouston.com/business-equity-enrollment/.

Minority and women owned businesses are encouraged to enroll in the Business Equity program giving access to Port Houston procurements, getting certified and gaining specific industry training and mentorship.  Several program bonuses include the BuySpeed opportunity that allow those enrolled to receive notifications of procurement opportunities and a support team to help guide business owners through the process.