Mayor Briley signs ‘Equal Business Opportunity Program’ bill into law

By Nashville Voice STAFF

On Friday, Jan. 11, Nashville Mayor David Briley signed into law the city’s first Equal Business Opportunity Program, an initiative designed to increase the number of government contracts awarded to women- and minority-owned businesses within Davidson County.

As Briley signed the law, he was joined by sponsors of the legislation, including Councilmembers Tanaka Vercher, Sharon Hurt, and Scott Davis, as well as members of his cabinet and other Metro government officials.

“Today, I proudly signed into law Nashville’s first Equal Business Opportunity Program, which will help level the playing field for minority and women-owned businesses,” Briley said in a statement while thanking its sponsors. “It’s a historic achievement for our city — and a major step in building prosperity for all residents.”

According to BL2018-1419, the objectives of the Equal Business Opportunity Program include:

  • to promote and encourage full and open competition in all Metropolitan Government procurement and purchasing;
  • to encourage all Metropolitan Government personnel involved in procurement and contracting activities to utilize appropriate purchasing procedures;
  • to prevent the Metropolitan Government from becoming a passive participant in any unlawful discrimination;
  • to spur economic development in the public and private sectors of the local economy; and,
  • to rectify any active or passive participation in such unlawful discrimination.

Briley’s signing of the bill followed the unanimous passing of the legislation during the Jan. 3 Metro Council meeting last week.

“This is a proud moment for this city,” said Councilwoman Tanaka Vercher, the council’s Budget and Finance Committee chairwoman, following the vote. “This is a proud moment for this body. 

“Your vote tonight conveys a strong message to the city and to other entities that seek to do business within Metro. And that message is, it’s not going to be business as usual anymore. That message is, we are a city that takes equity very seriously.”

A statement from Briley echoed Vercher’s sentiment: “I am proud of this new law and will do everything in my power to ensure its swift and effective implementation. I am thankful for the support of the Minority Business Advisory Council and Nashville Chamber of Commerce and strongly encourage the broader business community to study possible inequities in their own procurement practices.

“This legislation represents the first step in establishing equity in Metro contracting,” Briley’s statement continued. “We also will be working to make certain we create a coordinated business ecosystem to provide our small, women- and minority-owned businesses the resources and opportunities necessary to be successful.”

Ahead of the legislation, Briley hosted a press conference in November to formally announce a number of major policy changes that address race and gender disparities in how Metro contracts have been awarded to date.

The proposed policy changes stem from a 2017 Metro-commissioned Disparity Study conducted by consultants Griffin and Strong.

The study’s findings were presented to Metro Council on Sept. 17 and identified a lack of meaningful Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) inclusion efforts.

Griffin and Strong went on to propose remedial measures for the core aspects of the Equal Business Opportunity ordinance now before the Council.

“Without exception, all potential contractors deserve equal access to Metro projects, regardless of race or gender,” said Briley at the press conference in November. “Unfortunately, this study – the first since 2005 – found that the playing field has not been equitable over time.

“These measures will seek to change that,” he continued. “For our city to continue to thrive, everyone needs to be at the table.”

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