On September 21, 2023, the New Orleans City Council voted to update the Equitable Business Opportunities (EBO) Program in the Code of the City of New Orleans to include the implementation of a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) set-aside program and a reporting requirement in the form of a DBE scorecard. The Council believes that these additions to the EBO Program are important to provide more equitable opportunities for DBE businesses and to better monitor the City's overall equity efforts.
The DBE set-aside program and the DBE scorecard were both presented to the City Council's Economic Development Committee by The Collaborative in 2022 as best practices recommendations. These best practices recommendations are the result of research conducted by The Collaborative and the Collaborative Community Initiative (CCI), who evaluated actions other cities have taken to alleviate disparities in City contracting, monitor their equity efforts, and achieve their equity goals.
Louisiana Act 230 & the New Orleans Set Aside Program
The City of New Orleans completed the 2018 Disparity Study, which evaluated the spending, contracting patterns, and procurement practice of the city. The results revealed what was widely known, that there is a significant disparity in contract spending between white owned firms, women-owned firms, and minority-owned firms. Additionally, it was reported that only two percent of private (non-city) contracts were awarded to minority-owned firms. It is clear that this economic disparity is a crisis and is affecting the entire community.
Therefore, HB-224 was initiated by The Collaborative, introduced by Representative Delisha Boyd, unanimously passed by the Louisiana State legislature, and signed into law by Governor Edwards in June 2023. The purpose of the bill was to address this crisis in a direct and meaningful way. HB-224, now ACT-230, authorized a Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Business set-aside program for the City of New Orleans.
The intent is to establish a narrowly tailored program that would create a fertile pool of work where small and emerging certified DBE firms can compete against firms of like sizes for City contracts. It should be noted that certified DBE firms can have as much as $23,000,000 of revenue annually. When you consider the disparity in city contracting and the disparity in private contracting, small and emerging firms simply cannot compete. A narrowly tailored set-aside program is intended to provide a foothold of opportunities for these firms.
Implementing programs is important, but monitoring progress is essential. In April 2015, the City Council passed Ordinance No. 30,497 which called for each City department, board, and commission to report on DBE contracting as part of the annual budget process. In January 2021, the Ordinance was updated to specify a 35% DBE goal for each entity, rather than an overall 35% goal for the City. This reporting has yet to fully materialize, making it all but impossible for the City administration, the Council, or the public to wholly assess the impact of the City's DBE program.
In February 2023, The Collaborative proposed that the City of New Orleans implement an annual report card to monitor the effectiveness, growth, and success of the City’s DBE program each year by evaluating and grading the DBE contracting of each City department. In September 2023, the City Council voted to move forward with the DBE report card recommendation by adding a DBE scorecard reporting requirement to the City’s Equitable Business Opportunities (EBO) Program in the Code of the City of New Orleans.
How Can Local DBEs Participate and Access These Opportunities?
The City Council is currently in the process of developing rules and regulations for the DBE set-aside program. There will be a public hearing in January and your input will be needed.
In order to access these opportunities once they are available, you must be registered as a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise through the City's State and Local Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (SLDBE) Certification Program or the Louisiana Unified Certification Program for Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (LAUCP-DBE). Once you are registered as a SLDBE or LAUCP-DBE, you must then register with the City of New Orleans through B2GNow to view and bid for opportunities. Click here to find out more.