Asheville Business Inclusion Initiative

Opportunities to Engage

You can also learn more about what the Asheville Business Inclusion Office does on our main page. To stay informed of opportunities to connect with us or to take advantage of support activities, subscribe to the Business Inclusion Office newsletter, which comes out twice a month.

If you have feedback or questions about any of our programs or efforts, please email the Business Inclusion Manager, Rosanna Fox Mulcahy or call at 828-259-8050.

 


The Challenge

A disparity study in 2018 established that the City of Asheville contracting continues to exhibit significant racial and gender disparities. In other words, the demographics of businesses we contract with do not reflect the demographics of our community.

This initiative through the Asheville Business Inclusion Office is undertaking both internal process reform and external business support and capacity-building in order to eliminate these disparities.

 


The Plan

The City of Asheville’s approach starts by recognizing that the disparities we observe today result from overtly racist and sexist policies in the past combined with present-day policies and procedures that, while not overtly racist or sexist, nevertheless actively perpetuate those disparities. Addressing the combined impact of these factors requires both internal and external work and, importantly, will take sustained effort over time.

The 2019-2020 fiscal year is the first year of operation of the newly renamed and reorganized Asheville Business Inclusion Office, following the disparity study of 2018. Starting July 1, 2019, the Office is following this plan. Highlights of the plan this year include:

  • Development of a Small Business Enterprise (SBE) certification and an associated Shelter Market program.  Modeled after a Charlotte program, this allows the City to make some opportunities available only to certified businesses, thus giving smaller developing businesses a chance to build capacity and establish themselves.
  • Consider making the Business Inclusion Program race- and gender-conscious. This more targeted approach can help us better address existing disparities and break down some of the barriers that the impacted business owners face.
  • Create additional targeted training opportunities that complement existing programs. A targeted approach can provide training that directly addresses the challenges faced by African-American business owners.
  • Implement a direct loan program for SBE certified businesses. Minorities and women face higher-than-average barriers in gaining access to capital. This program will use awarded City contracts as collateral to ease access to capital and speed processing of the loans.
  • Implement internal technology and process changes. While not part of the formal plan, significant changes are needed to change systems and processes that perpetuate racial and gender disparities, as well as to support data collection and reporting.

 


What’s Happening Now?

We are actively working on data systems that will allow us to provide ongoing performance results and will also soon share a report on last year’s results, which we will share here.

For now, the 2018 Disparity Study provides an initial baseline for our performance. As may be seen in the chart below, with the exception of white women and Latinx/Hispanic business owners in construction, both women and minorities face significant disparities (a disparity index below 80 reflects substantial underutilization).

 


Recent Milestones, Events & Lessons

March 2020

  • Internal procurement training event

On March 4 a staff training event was held to introduce changes being made to procurement procedures.

February 2020

  • How to become a vendor training held
  • Mountain Business Equity Initiative contract approved by City Council
  • Planning for centralized bid management begins

January 2020

  • Semi-monthly Coffee Huddles kickoff event
  • Exploration of race- and gender-conscious procurement policy begins

December 2019

  • SBE Certification Program finalized

November 2019

  • Vendor Self-Service (VSS) module purchased for City procurement systems

VSS lets vendors maintain their own information in our procurement systems, but also allows us for the first time to track records on all vendors, not just those with contracts. This is critical for tracking available businesses, as well as for building more effective outreach programs. The new module will be enabled for new vendors by March 2020, and for all vendors by May.

October 2019

  • Mountain Community Capital Fund launches
  • Symposium on strengthening the economic inclusion ecosystem of WNC

On October 28 the Business Inclusion Office and the Office of Equity and Inclusion hosted a TBD.

September 2019

  • Engagement begins with Johns Hopkins’ Center for Government Excellence (GovEx)

As part of the City’s participation in What Works Cities, staff from the Business Inclusion Office, Capital Projects, and IT kicked off a 6-month engagement to identify ways to use data to improve outcomes for the program.

July 2019

  • Asheville Business Inclusion Office established

The City of Asheville began the 2019-2020 budget year by establishing the Asheville Business Inclusion Office to replace the minority business program. For the first time, the Office received an independent budget to fund its first-year plan following the 2018 Disparity Study.

  • Community Planning + Action Cohort begins work

A group of eight local business owners and community members began meeting to develop a research-based strategy to respond to disparities and to shape policy, practice, access, and opportunity for entrepreneurs and owners of color.

 


Contact Information

Rosanna Fox Mulcahy, Business Inclusion Manager
Community and Economic Development Department

828-259-8050

City of Asheville
70 Court Plaza, 5th Floor, Asheville NC 28801

Mail to:
City of Asheville
P.O. Box 7148, Asheville NC 28802

 


 

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