ATLANTA — A newly released state report finds there are nearly a million businesses in Georgia owned by women and minorities, but the state government says it does not know how much state contracting goes to those companies.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Richard Belcher says we know most clearly about the Georgia Department of Transportation, which is required by the federal government to track the amounts it spends with companies owned by women and minorities.
Last year, that was a total of $88.8 million, but there are billions of dollars in state spending about which we know very little.
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In July, Gov. Brian Kemp ordered the Department of Administrative Services, the state’s purchasing agency, to study how Georgia can help small businesses owned by women, minorities and veterans get state contracts. The agency delivered an 85-page report to the governor Oct. 31. It tells us a lot about complaints from the companies and what the state is doing to help them. Among the findings:
A survey of 629 small businesses found that 60% say they have no experience with the state bidding process. Ninety percent identified needs such as access to capital and assistance with the bidding process.
But as Channel 2 Action News first reported in September, DOAS has no idea how much of its total spending goes to companies owned by minorities and women. An agency spokeswoman told us the state keeps track of statewide contracts (about 20% of the $6.1 billion in total spending), but the various state agencies that spend the remaining $4.9 billion do not track breakout spending in the categories of minority-owned and female-owned businesses.
Of the $1.2 billion DOAS has been able to track, the agency says 7.7% was spent with minority-owned firms and 7% with companies owned by women.
We know more about GDOT because Washington requires the state to track it. GDOT told us in September that not quite $89 million (roughly 5.5% of it $1.6 billion in total spending) went to so-called disadvantaged businesses in the most recent year. The new report posted on the DOAS website does not offer any more clarity.
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“I was looking for something simple: how much does the state spend, and how much of that goes to minority-owned businesses?” says State Representative Roger Bruce (D-Fulton). He was disappointed the report didn’t include a spending breakdown.
“They were able to do it for DOT, so why didn’t they just do it for the whole state at the same time?” he told Channel 2′s Belcher.
Bruce says he hopes the issue attracts voters’ attention — even in a year dominated by inflation, abortion and crime: “At the root of a lot of issues that we have in this state is the ability for minority-owned businesses and the businesses that we’re dealing with in this subject is the ability to pay, be able to pay their bills.”
The state requires that purchases over $25,000 be subjected to competitive bidding. We asked if Bruce wants to alter that requirement to help minority firms.
“I wouldn’t say that I was looking to change it to favor them. I would just, you know, change it to allow them to compete effectively,” Bruce told Channel 2.
A spokesman for Kemp says agencies will track spending with minority-owned and female-owned businesses going forward.
Here is a link to the report: https://doas.ga.gov/state-purchasing/supplier-services/small-business.
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