WSSC Policy Attempts to Level the Field for Minorities, Women

April 14, 2011  |  

(Gazette) — In times past, says Michelle A. Bell, a black businesswoman such as herself would not have had a seat at the table when deals were struck.  “This was the good old boys club,” says Bell, president of 1st Choice Government Solutions of Silver Spring. “It was who you knew. Well, we’d like them to know us, too.”  Those days are largely gone, but a recent Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission report still found significant disparities between the contracts awarded to businesses owned by white men compared with those owned by minorities and women.  “You look at the disparity study — it shows it blatantly exists,” Bell said. “When you show that disparity exists, you have to make it a level playing field.”  ‘Significantly underutilized’  After long and protracted study and debate, WSSC’s new Minority Business Enterprise program takes effect on May 1, but some critics say it does not go far enough to erase the contracting disparities found by the study.  As the eighth-largest water and waste treatment utility in the country, WSSC has 1.8 million users in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and a $1.19 billion budget, making it a source of potentially lucrative contracts for businesses.

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