INDIANAPOLIS — In a 20-5 vote, the City-County Council passed a proposal Monday to ensure certain businesses would have equal opportunities to bid on city contracts.
Proposal 231 increases the employment of minority, women, veteran and disabled-owned businesses.
“We want everyone to be intentional about our small and diverse businesses here in our city,” said Camille Blunt, director of the Office of Minority and Women Business Development.
Businesses will be better equipped to apply for city contracts through more education, training and business assistance programs. A contractor must also show proof they gave businesses an opportunity to bid on a project.
“If an individual bids on a job for the city of Indianapolis, they may say, 'I’m using these three businesses,' and when they get to the job site, they’re no longer using those three businesses. There was very little that we were able to do to get compliance from that particular contract holder,” said Blunt.
RELATED: Learn more about Proposal 231
Blunt said her office has been working with city councilors on this proposal after the completion of a 2019 disparity study.
That study found “significant disparities” with minorities, women, veterans and those with disabilities, in direct awards or contracting awards for construction, goods/supplies and service.
Some of those barriers included business owners having a lack of information regarding purchasing opportunities with the city, a lack of experiences in business management techniques or contracts and subcontracts were too large to bid.
Under the proposal, if a contractor fails to comply with certain terms, they could be penalized 10 percent of future payments for that eligible project. Blunt said that’s a last resort, and there are many other steps to take before any penalties are enforced.
“For example, we want to make sure we meet with the agency that is the contract holder to find out what penalties would be appropriate for the project. What we don’t want to do as an office is to stop a large project from happening. That’s not our goal,” said Blunt.
Some city councilors expressed concern over where money collected from that 10 percent penalty would go.
In an email, Council President Vop Osili told 13News the money, if collected, would stay in the contracting agency’s budget. It’s money city leaders would not have to pay, per the terms of the contract.
“The last thing we want to do is to take money away from our city contract holders. I think it would be inappropriate for me as a director to enforce penalties on a business and then that money come back to my office,” said Blunt.
Blunt said the proposal will help ensure small and diverse businesses have available opportunities.