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City of Seattle Disparity Study

The City of Seattle plans to begin conducting a disparity study in the Fall of 2021 for its Women- and Minority-Owned Business Enterprise (WMBE) Program. The City seeks to ensure that WMBEs have equal access to contracting opportunities and that the City of Seattle’s contracting equity and inclusion efforts are legally defensible and administratively successful.

A disparity study involves compilation of evidence to determine whether WMBEs have equal opportunities on City projects. The study will determine the City’s utilization of WMBEs and the availability of WMBEs as a percentage of all firms in the market area and relevant industries. The study will analyze whether there are disparities, if any, between the availability of WMBEs and their utilization on City contracts and related subcontracts, and throughout the Seattle area economy as a whole.

The study will further examine factors necessary for entrepreneurial success, such as access to business capital, bonding, networks, suppliers, etc. It will also gather anecdotal evidence of any continuing effects of past or present race and sex discrimination, and the impact of the current City programs. Another important component is recommendations for future initiatives and enhancements.

The contract for this study has been awarded to Colette Holt & Associates (CHA), a nationally recognized expert team on disparity studies and WMBE programs. The firm has worked with several agencies in Washington State over many years. CHA is partnering with local firms Yates Consulting and Contacto to assist with community engagement and anecdotal data collection for the study.

How can you be involved? The participation of business owners is critical to the study’s outcomes in two important ways.

First, the study team will contact businesses to confirm information on specific contracts and/or to receive additional contract information that is currently not available or accessible to the City. Like most government agencies, the City has not collected all of the specialized contracting records necessary for the study, so the consultant must rely on prime firms to supplement missing data. This information is critical to developing an accurate analysis of the utilization of WMBEs on City projects. With the support and assistance of business owners, the study will present a complete picture of the City’s contracting activities. CHA will work with the firms contacted to make the process as easy as possible.

Second, interested persons can be part of the process for anecdotal data collection. CHA will distribute an electronic survey to business owners and hold business owner small group interviews to obtain information about firms’ experiences with the City and throughout the Seattle economy. The information generated from these data collection methods will be an important component of the analysis of whether the WMBEs enjoy equal contracting opportunities. To learn about sessions pertinent to your business or organization, please email CHA at seattle-study@mwbelaw.com. We also welcome written submissions.

Frequently Asked Questions