Portland Disparity Study Delivers Mixed Results, by Wendy Culverwell, Portland Business Journal

Portland earned mixed marks on a report grading its efforts to include firms owned by women and minorities in its public works projects.

The widely anticipated “disparity study” by Denver-based BBC Research and Consulting landed at city offices last week. Federal court rulings prohibit government agencies from establishing goals for disadvantaged businesses unless they first conduct “disparity” studies to determine if a gap exists. Portland’s last disparity study was released in 1995.

BBC evaluated approximately 9,000 contracts issued or sponsored by the city and the Portland Development Commission between 2004 and 2009. The study cost $1 million, with $350,000 from the PDC and $650,000 from the city.

According to the report, Portland successfully used women- and minority-owned firms for both construction and professional services. BBC reported no disparities in any of the four primary categories.

The PDC, meanwhile, passed in three categories and failed in five. The report found that the PDC made good use of disadvantaged firms on projects it owned in 2004 to 2009, but generally failed to promote such firms on projects it sponsored by contributing funds but not oversight.

The development commission anticipated that its “sponsored” projects would be a weakness one year ago when it changed its contracting policy to require any partner to meet its diversity goal if it uses PDC money on a construction project.

The development commission won passing marks in the use of woman-owned construction firms and use of minority- and woman-owned “personal services” firms, which are generally architectural and engineering related. It failed in the use of minority-owned construction firms, use of minority-owned personal services firms and use of woman-owned personal services firms.

Results of the report will guide the city and development commission’s efforts to include traditionally disadvantaged firms in its public works projects.

A copy of the report is available for view or comment on the city’s website.

Read more: Portland disparity study delivers mixed results | Portland Business Journal