Mayor Murray signs executive order strengthening equity in city contracting

Mayor Ed Murray today signed an executive order strengthening the city’s ongoing commitment to social equity in city contracting opportunities. The order requires departments promptly pay invoices, support businesses by providing technical assistance, and increase accountability and coordination to ensure fair and equitable treatment among all businesses competing for public works, purchasing and consulting contracts.

“A healthy and diverse business sector is essential to Seattle’s economic vitality and this executive order makes clear my commitment to creating a more welcoming environment for businesses small and large seeking work with the city,” said Murray.

“Success among women and minority-owned businesses translates to more jobs and long-term prosperity for all,” said Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the Seattle City Council’s Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee. “More than half of all new jobs are created by small business and minority-owned businesses. I applaud the Mayor’s decision to recommit our efforts on the City’s inclusionary plan and more effectively engaging with minority-owned businesses. During budget deliberations this year, departments should be prepared to report their progress on women and minority business contracting.”

The city has been successful in its efforts to ensure women and minority businesses (WMBE) are competitive when seeking public works, purchasing and contracting opportunities, with more than 16 percent of city contract dollars going to firms owned by women or people of color in 2013. The executive order moves the city beyond existing efforts to ensure a responsive, respectful and accountable environment for all businesses.

“I’m proud that on Equal Pay Day we are reaffirming our commitment to women and minority businesses,” said Councilmember Godden, chair of the Parks, Seattle Center, Libraries and Gender Pay Equity Committee. “We will win with women and minority business and must reduce their obstacles to their success.”

A significant new measure is a directive for the timely payment of invoices, as the city recognizes cash flow is an important element in business capacity, especially for small and WMBE-owned firms in particular. Departments are directed to re-engineer internal pay processes and practices to expedite timely invoice approval and to enforce contract provisions that require contractors promptly pay their respective small subcontractors.

“In the last decade, the city has made great strides in increasing opportunity for disadvantaged businesses to compete on a level playing field. Now I am raising the expectations,” said Murray. “A business’ ability to be competitive should not be hindered by unnecessary obstacles, such as delayed payments, excessive paperwork or inconsistent practices across departments.”

Murray is directing departments to coordinate efforts to ensure all policies, practices and processes are consistent and complementary, making it easier for WMBE firms to pursue City contracts. One example is unbundling tasks so work within a larger project can be solicited in separate components that better match capacities of smaller firms.

All firms, especially WMBE firms, will also benefit from increased outreach, training and technical assistance, such as business development and mentoring programs, to ensure firms are competitive and have resources to work effectively within city contracts. By building greater strength among the firms that bid and do business around the region, these efforts will create greater capacity for all public agencies and private contractors doing business in the area.

Additionally, city departments will create a more structured system of accountability when it comes to tracking and reporting on utilization of WMBE firms. The executive order directs departments to integrate WMBE policy priorities into their respective work programs and performance priorities, and requires a system of performance reports with measurable results to the Mayor’s Office.

To fully and effectively implement these measures, Murray directed his Office of Policy and Innovation to work with contractors, including WMBE firms, city departments and other stakeholders.

“The city cannot create and implement these measures in a vacuum. I’ll be looking to members of our local businesses, community groups, public agencies and other stakeholders for their varying perspectives, vast experience and knowledge to inform our work,” said Murray.

“Since his first day in office, Mayor Murray has taken concrete steps towards establishing a more equitable city,” said Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, chair of the Transportation Committee. “Today’s announcement is further evidence of his commitment to deliver on his inaugural pledge for fairness and equality, and to address economic disparities in Seattle.”

The order builds upon Ordinance 121717, which in 2005 created Seattle Municipal Code Chapter 20.42, Equality in Contracting, to increase participation of WMBE firms in city contracts. In 2013, 16 percent of all city dollars spent on public works, purchasing and contracting went to WMBE firms.

Full video of the press event: