City of Columbia Announces Second Disparity Study
Apr 22, 2021

The City of Columbia has retained the services of Keen Independent Research LLC to conduct the City’s second Disparity Study.  The purpose of the study is to examine current policies and programs to ensure minority and women-owned business enterprises are afforded equitable opportunities to fully participate in all City of Columbia contracting and procurement practices.  The last study, The Business Utilization Causation Study for the City of Columbia, was conducted in 2006.  The City has implemented many of the 2006 recommendations and strengthened City programs to encourage the utilization of local businesses and Minority, and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (M/WBE). Some of those implemented recommendations include:

  • Annual Citywide Aspirational M/WBE Utilization Goals
  • Bidder Rotation for Small Purchases
  • Extension of the City’s Commercial Non-Discrimination Policy to Include Non-Discrimination in Contracting Policy for Contractors
  • Implementation of the Mentor Protégé Program for Water and Sewer Projects
  • Prompt Payment to Subcontractors Language Included in City Contractors
  • Increased M/WBE Access to Capital

Keen Independent Research, LLC is an economic consulting firm specializing in disparity studies and design of M/WBE programs for government entities.  As one of the largest disparity study consulting teams in the country, the firm has offices in Denver and Phoenix.  Keen will provide data analysis, technical advisement, and a final report for the Disparity Study.  The consultant will also utilize two local minority firms, DESA, Inc. and Comprehensive Business Consultants, LLC, to provide community outreach, data collection, focus group facilitations, and in-depth stakeholder interviews for the City of Columbia’s Disparity Study II. 

“An integral component to furthering the City of Columbia as the most talented, educated and entrepreneurial city in America is to ensure it is also the most inclusive and equitable,” said Mayor Steve Benjamin. “This Disparity Study will help reveal the degrees to which our minority and women–owned businesses are included in our contracting and procurement landscape.”

 According to Councilman Sam Davis, “Columbia is committed to providing equitable access to procurement and contracting opportunities.  The valuable information gained from the Study will ensure a more inclusive path forward for our entire community and help grow our local minority and women-owned businesses.”  

 “As we continue to promote equity across our City, we have determined that there is a significant need to update the Disparity Study and review the utilization of minority and women-owned business enterprises in City contracts and procurements.  The City is excited to begin this process,” stated Teresa Wilson, City Manager.

According to Melissa Lindler, director of the Office of Business Opportunities, “this study will assist the City in identifying disparities, meeting the needs of our minority contractors and vendors, and increasing fair and equitable opportunities for our entire community.”

 The anticipated completion of the City of Columbia’s Disparity Study II is 18 – 24 months.