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New Pilot Program Proposed to Advance Equity in Procurement

The sheltered market program would allow the City of Boston to designate certain contracts for procurement from minority- and women-owned businesses.

Mayor Michelle Wu today filed an order with the City Council to create an equity in procurement pilot program through June 30, 2022. This order will allow the City of Boston to designate up to 6 city contracts for procurement from minority- and women-owned businesses, known as a sheltered market program. The order is part of a larger initiative to direct city resources to local, diverse businesses that are vital to expanding wealth-building opportunities and supporting their capacity to compete for city contracts. 

Learn more about the program on the Sheltered Market website.

In 2020, the City of Boston released a disparity study that showed that only 1.2% of the $2.1 billion City’s contracts for construction and professional goods and services went to Black and Latinx-owned businesses. 

The pilot, implemented in close collaboration with the City Council, the Administration & Finance Cabinet, the Equity & Inclusion Cabinet as well as the new Economic Opportunity and Inclusion Cabinet, will allow the City of Boston and contracting partners to measure effectiveness as they address the historic inequities in Boston’s procurement process.

“Building on the work in the City Hall to ensure that our public dollars are going to build wealth in our communities and close the racial wealth gap, I am excited to file for a pilot program to create specific opportunities for Black and Brown businesses to contract with the city,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “As we recover from the pandemic, the City of Boston will use every dollar to make our city a place for everyone.”

“This pilot program marks an important opportunity for the City to align its spending with addressing historical disparities,” said former Mayor Kim Janey. “This will increase the number of city contracts going to women-owned and minority-owned businesses, while also building a more equitable economy for all of our residents.”

"The sheltered market pilot program is an important milestone in the City's effort to connect diverse suppliers to wealth-building opportunities and redress historic inequities in the procurement process," said Segun Idowu, incoming Chief of Economic Opportunity and Inclusion. "I want to thank Mayor Wu for prioritizing this issue in her first 100 days, as well as the team in the Mayor's Offices of Administration and Finance, Economic Opportunity and Inclusion, Equity, Law, and Policy for their tireless work in shaping the order for this program, which will help to immediately advance equity in city contracting."

“We know from our 2020 disparity study that businesses owned by women and people of color have historically been excluded from City contracts. This program will provide those businesses the opportunity to compete and be prime contractors for the City of Boston and help ensure that the City’s resources are being spent equitably across our communities,” said Celina Barrios-Millner, Chief of Equity and Inclusion. 

“This is a step in the right direction,” said Glynn Lloyd, Executive Director of Foundation for Business Equity. “Based on the disparity of how spending has taken place to our minority companies, we look forward to the new administration’s full commitment to leveling the playing field.” 

“Equity in public procurement requires policies and practices that level the playing field for MBEs and WBEs that have been historically excluded from contracting opportunities,” said Betty Francisco, CEO of Boston Impact Initiative and Co-Founder of Amplify Latinx. “This sheltered market program is one of many tools that the City can use to promote equitable access to contracts that create jobs and growth for minority and women-owned businesses.”

"The request for authorization of this sheltered market program gives us another powerful tool to improve equity in City contracting," said Justin Sterritt, CFO and Chief Procurement Officer. "The challenges surrounding procurement are complex, and require using every tool available to help close persistent gaps and inequities in City contracting. This sheltered market program builds on a series of reforms and Council orders to improve the procurement process and increase opportunity for new and diverse vendors. Under Mayor Wu's leadership, we will use every tool at our disposal, and the addition of this sheltered market program is a major step." 

This order builds on Mayor Wu’s years of commitment to require equitable City contracting and close the racial wealth gap. In 2016, then-Councilor Wu and then-Councilor Ayanna Pressley presided over the City Council hearing that examined the City’s procurement process and efforts to support local businesses. In 2017, Mayor Wu and Congresswoman Pressley co-sponsored an ordinance that required the City to collect more data on contracting. Mayor Wu passed a groundbreaking ordinance that required the City of Boston to shift its food procurement practices to meet certain standards around racial equity, fair pay for workers, environmental sustainability, and nutrition.

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