ATLANTA — A committee of the State Transportation Board approved a staff recommendation Wednesday to set a target of awarding 10 percent of its contracts to minority-owned firms and 5 percent to those owned by women when either group meets the federal definition of “disadvantaged.”
The full board votes today on what represents an increase in the existing target of 12 percent despite the fact that the Department of Transportation has fallen below even that target in the last three years.
The recommendation resulted from a study by a consortium of consulting firms, public meetings attended by nearly 200 people and 45 written comments.
The consultants studied how many companies are available for road-building work and what their abilities are.
About 30 percent of the companies interested in highway projects are either owned by ethnic minorities or women, but most aren’t big enough to handle major projects.
It found in looking at 4,800 contracts and subcontracts for $2 billion the department has awarded since 2009 that 12.4 percent went to firms owned by women or minorities. But only 9.7 percent went to those considered disadvantaged because of income or other factors.
Of the 12.4 percent, women owners got the largest share, 8.4 percent, with those owned by blacks taking 2.4 percent, Hispanics 1.1 percent and other minorities 0.5 percent.
It also discovered that many of the target firms are competing against one another for the same piece of the pie. For example, seven out of 10 of the target firms are in trucking and hauling.
“Of course, we need to do more outreach to get people registered in the program,” said Michael Cooper, director of equal opportunity.
Among the tactics to boost minority participation is a computer system designed to better coordinate activities between the department’s various divisions to simplify dealings with the agency for the small businesses.
Board member Don Grantham endorsed the study.
“I believe we need to move this along,” he said.