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Grand Rapids Equity Scorecard from 2016 to the present

City of Grand Rapids

Since taking office in early 2016, Mayor Rosalynn Bliss made it a top priority for her administration to address systemic racism and racial bias. Here she is in the 2016 State of the City.  

“We must support the work being done to nurture business to business relationships, and to promote and enhance especially minority owned businesses.”

In response to the Mayor’s plan, the city developed a racial equity plan and part of the plan was to increase contracts with minority owned business and local businesses. But the plan was never formally adopted according to Patty Caudill, Manager of Diversity and Inclusion for the City of Grand Rapids.

“So it wasn’t officially adopted but components of that 2017 plan are being incorporated into the strategic planning that the City Commission is doing, and the strategic planning that the City Manager is doing.”

A closer look at the city’s awarded contracts of $10,000 and above show that out of over 1000 contracts only 18 were awarded to minority owned businesses, according to data from the last three fiscal yearsfrom the city’s engineering and purchasing departments. But Caudill says the data doesn’t show all of the contracts given to minority owned businesses because each of them has to self-identify as such.

“the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative made it illegal for government educational institutions and others to use race and gender either as a benefit or a detriment in contracting in employment and in education.”

To offset this the City incentivizes any bidders who use a local or minority owned business by giving them a 5% discount. And it appears to be working, according to Caudill. 

“We have seen higher utilization of our micro local businesses and in additionally of our minority owned businesses and female owned businesses then when we had a mandated program.” 

The City of Grand Rapids is one of five cities around the country selected to be part of an initiative committed to advancing racial equity through the Government Alliance on Race and Equity.

Michelle Jokisch Polo, WGVU News

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