GREENSBORO — The city of Greensboro awarded $251.6 million in business contracts during calendar year 2018.

But only 2.6 percent of that business, or $6.5 million, went to minority businesses, new figures released Wednesday by a minority business association show.

The city provided the figures in February to the Greensboro Business League, a 1-year-old organization designed to encourage and advocate for African-American businesses in the city.

Earl Jones, a co-chairman of the group, presented the figures Wednesday morning at a news conference at the International Civil Rights Center & Museum on South Elm Street.

The figures show that minority businesses won 2.36 percent of the $199.7 million in construction contracts awarded by the city, 6.57 percent of $23.5 million in professional services contracts and less than 1 percent of $28.4 million in contracts for goods and other services the city awarded.

The business league and the NAACP have asked the city to improve its record of hiring minority contractors. That includes hiring more city staff to monitor the number of contracts awarded to minority companies and implementing other strategies to improve what the groups say is a “shameful” record in awarding contracts.

A city-sponsored study released last year shows that of $738.5 million in contracts awarded by the city from fiscal year 2012 through fiscal year 2016, minority businesses were awarded 1.8 percent of that total.

“It impacts on every aspect of life in Greensboro on both sides of town,” Jones said. That’s because African-American businesses tend to hire more African-American workers and that helps the region’s unemployment rate and disparities for minority unemployment, he said.

Jones’ group concentrates on African-American businesses, but the city is also considering how it can do a better job of contracting with women and other ethnic minorities.

The city is already making changes.

In February, the council formally adopted changes to the local “Minority/Women’s Business Enterprise” program intended to dramatically increase the amount of participation in city contracts by such companies.

The new ordinance expands the marketplace for eligible companies from Greensboro’s immediate vicinity to a 27-county region within which at least 75 percent of the city’s contract money was spent.

The new ordinance boosts the overall goals for participation by MWBE companies to 38 percent in municipal construction contracts, 46 percent for professional services, 49 percent for purchased goods, and 29 percent for other spending.

New wording in the ordinance adds companies with Hispanic American ownership to MWBE construction eligibility, Asian American ownership to professional services, and both Asian- and Native Americans to the category of goods and other services.

The new program will take full effect July 1.

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Contact Richard M. Barron at 336-373-7371 and follow @BarronBizNR on Twitter.

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