Minority & Women Business Enterprise Program Aims to Increase Economic Diversity

By County Manager Chris Coudriet

Earlier this year, New Hanover County began working on an update to our Minority and Women Business Enterprise (MWBE) Program to help ensure a higher rate of MWBE participation in all aspects of the county’s contracting and procurement programs, including construction projects, supplies, and material purchases, and professional and personal service contracts.

The updated program went into effect in November and is now a much larger part of our everyday purchasing procedures. I believe this is an important step to boost entrepreneurs and increase economic diversity in New Hanover County.

According to the most recent Census data from 2012, there were 2,022 minority-owned and 4,721 women-owned businesses out of a total of 14,935 in Wilmington. Those numbers have undoubtedly increased in the past seven years with the help of advocates who are empowering and supporting women and minority entrepreneurs.

New Hanover County is a key player in those advocacy discussions and, with the support of our Commissioners, we are working on ways to help make our community more inclusive and more welcoming to diverse workers and businesses.

Improving the MWBE Program is one of the most important initiatives we’ve launched for this effort. The revised policy requires a documented, good-faith effort by employees to include MWBE vendors with each new bid or quote that is obtained. And our employees now have more resources and direct access to a MWBE vendor list that currently includes more than 200 firms.

Our outreach to grow this vendor list is taking place now as we work to recruit additional MWBE businesses not currently in our directory. If you are a MWBE, please enroll in our vendor self-service system. You can find that information, and an overview of our MWBE Program on our Finance website here. And if you know of a potential MWBE business, please tell them about this program.

In Fiscal Year 2019, the county spent $6,430,000 of our $79,250,000 in goods and services with minority businesses. I look forward to seeing a noticeable increase in that number in the years ahead.

As New Hanover County works to increase the diversity and number of higher wage jobs throughout the county, we believe these policy and procedure enhancements will be important to support business growth and economic diversity in New Hanover County.

It takes all of us being intentional and inclusive, so I hope you will take a look at your own business or organization and think about ways you can enhance your practices to help boost entrepreneurs. Let’s be purposeful to include opportunities for all.

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