Study: Only 0.5% of Harris County contracts go to Black-owned businesses

Commissioner Rodney Ellis released the following statement regarding the Harris County Commissioners Court commissioned minority and women-owned business disparity study:

As our nation grapples with its long history of systemic racism and inequality, we must look at all systems of injustice, including economic, and how they have impacted our economy and continue to do so today.

Ensuring that minorities, women, and other disadvantaged groups have fair access to economic opportunity is a top priority. Minority- and women-owned businesses play a vital role in our local economy and are driving the growth of new business and jobs in Harris County. Advancing fair and inclusive economic policies to bolster their long-term success will help create wealth and jobs within our community.

Two years ago, Harris County Commissioners Court commissioned a disparity study to determine if minority- and women-owned businesses have access to government contracting and procurement.

In other words, a disparity study tells you if you have a problem. Initial results revealed: we have a big problem.

Here are some troubling facts that the disparity study found:

  • Only 9.1% of Harris County’s contracts are with minority or women-owned businesses. Only 0.5% of our contract dollars go to Black-owned businesses; 0.6% to Asian-owned firms; and 4.6% to Latinx-owned businesses. Those figures are not at all representative of the businesses who could and want to contract with Harris County.
  • The study also found disparities in wages, business earnings, and business formation rates for minorities and women in all industry sectors in the County’s marketplace.

Read the entire Disparity Study here.

We can and will do better. The Disparity Study is the first step. We have to examine how we as a county perpetuate inequities. The disparities in our government procurement affect and reflect the disparities in our county at large. If we are serious about equity and justice, we have to be proactive about righting these wrongs. We have to be proactive in dismantling the intentional racial oppression that has led to our disparities.

While we will be opening our Office of Economic Equity and Opportunity later this year, contracting is not going to wait until its open, therefore, we need to start working on creating a Minority/Women-owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) program right away to cure the harm being done with our current practices.

We will continue to work together to advance the cause of MWBE opportunities not only in the county but at every local governmental entity in the Harris County.

I look forward to providing you more detailed information from this important study and working with you on this important issue.