This story was produced with support from the City Accelerator program.
In 2010, Memphis, Tenn., released a report on the status of the city’s certified minority- and women-owned businesses. How well were those businesses being represented in city contracts? Was the city discriminating against them? Were official policies getting in the way? The results were not promising.
Then in 2016, the city released a follow-up study -- and the picture was even worse. The second disparity study, conducted by Atlanta consulting firm Griffin & Strong, showed that disparity in the city’s purchasing practices had actually increased for most businesses, including major categories like construction, architecture, engineering and other goods. The only place where things had gotten better was in “other professional services,” which includes lawyers, doctors, accountants and banks.
In response to the report, Mayor Jim Strickland sought to improve the city’s business relationships with minority- and women-owned enterprises (MWBEs), which was one of his campaign promises when he assumed office in 2016 after defeating A C Wharton.