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Council discusses Project Labor Agreements

October 29, 2016 GMT

In 2009 under former Mayor Michael Nutter, the Advisory Commission on Construction Industry Diversity recommended a plan — that was adopted — to include 32 percent of minority participation and 7 percent by females.

In June, 11 council members signed a letter addressed to Mayor Jim Kenney asking that the $10 billion he plans to spend for the Rebuild Program and the Project Labor Agreement, have inclusion of community contractors, locally owned small businesses, and minority, disadvantaged and sustainable enterprises. Council passed a resolution to host hearings on the matter back in April.

At a Committee on Commerce and Economic Development hearing last week, Committee Chair and Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., inquired why Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Nolan Atkinson wasn’t in attendance.

“He should be here, because as you can see, we’re here,” Jones said. “We’re serious about this. This is not a dog and pony show.”

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Others, however, did speak on improvements that had been made to the procurement system.

Rebecca Rhynhart, the city’s chief administrative officer, said Kenney’s administration was committed to modernizing procurement to increase transparency and efficiency.

“It is important to balance the need to procure goods and services at a responsible rate with utilizing our contracting opportunities to foster inclusion and economic development,” Rhynhart said. “Through this strengthened outreach, our goal is to attract new, local, minority and woman-owned businesses to bid on city contracts.”

By updating the website, its newly electronic contract and signature system, and by effectively publicizing procurement opportunities, the city hopes to attract more minority, local and women ran businesses.

Rhynhart noted that cutting down on the time it takes for vendors to get paid, striving to have contracts signed before work starts so that they may get paid within 60 days of beginning, and launching Contracts Hub (currently there are six websites that advertise different opportunities) by the end of the year, will attract more companies.

“We have many, many businesses that feel so frustrated they don’t want to do business with the city,” Rhynhart said. “So we started to look at why, and the answers that we got back were the processes was too cumbersome.”

Rhynhart cited a lack of communication as an area of concern, adding some bids only receive two responses.

“They don’t know that if they respond to an opportunity they have a 50 percent chance of winning it,” she said. “I think part of it is making our process less cumbersome, to increase the outreach and make sure that the businesses know about the opportunities.”

Councilman Derek Green said the city is getting shortchanged when work is given to the same businesses for the same prices.

“They’re making decisions with the businesses they’ve been working with over and over and over again,” Green said. “At the end of the day, there’s no opportunity for businesses of color and local businesses. We’re also not doing the best job of using our resources.”

Jones reiterated the need for more diversity in Rebuild.

“I’m all on board with parks, libraries and rec centers in my district,” Jones added. “But if the guys and the ladies in the barber shops and beauty shops don’t get invited to the party, there will be no party.”