Click here to view the disparity study.
Key Recommendations For Minority and Women Inclusion:
- Interim/Current Goals (Contracting & Workforce):
- Building Construction Contracts Over $50,000: 25% MBE & 5% WBE
- Non-Building Construction Contracts Over $50,000: 15% MWBE (with 7.5% MBE minimum)
- Professional Services Contracts Over $50,000: 30% MWBE
- Procurement of Goods & Services: 10% MWBE
- Workforce for Contracts Over $500,000: 25% minority & 6.9% women
- Disparity Study Recommendation (Contracting & Workforce):
- Building Construction Contracts Over $50,000: 30% MBE
- Non Building Construction Contracts Over $50,000: 17% MBE
- Professional Services Contracts: No goal/No Disparity
- Procurement of Goods & Services: No goal/No Disparity
- Workforce for Contracts Over $500,000:
- Construction: 30% minority & 7% women
- Professional Services: 18% minority & 32% women
In April 2012, an agreement was finalized that brought to a close a federal lawsuit filed against MSD in June 2007. This agreement requires MSD to spend a minimum of $4.7 billion over the next 23 years to implement sewer improvements throughout St. Louis City and St. Louis County. While the vast majority of this work will be out of sight, this agreement will be felt in our region for decades to come. From the creation of jobs, to the protection of vital waterways, to preventing basement backups, the agreement, and the associated spending, will be world-class in terms of its scope and reach. While this program cannot be all things, to all people, it can certainly serve as a catalyst for change in our community.
For much of 2011 and all of 2012, the Board of Trustees and MSD staff engaged in a dialogue with various stakeholders about how to improve MSD’s diversity programs. While MSD is proud of the diversity programs we have had for many years, we by no means claim perfection and reject the premise that improvements cannot be made. Rather the opposite is true. As we begin a world-class construction program in terms of its scope and reach, we should strive to have a world-class program of inclusion for minorities, women, and disadvantaged businesses. Not just in-terms of contracts alone, but in-terms of workforce diversity as well.
One of the commitments that MSD made to help further these efforts was the commissioning of a disparity study. A disparity study is an evaluation of an organization’s procurement and contracting practices, particularly its use of minority and women-owned business enterprises. Such a study factually determines if there is a disparity between the current utilization and the actual number of minority and women-owned businesses within a local area that are ready, willing, and able to provide sewer construction, building construction, engineering professional services, non-engineering professional services, supplies, and contractual services for contracts.
Specific benefits MSD will derive from such a study and its implementation include:
- Factual support for diversity goals;
- Identification of best practices to improve MSD’s contracting process;
- Facilitate an increase in the number of bidders for MSD’s contracts, which in turn will lower MSD’s procurement costs.
The diversity goals recommended by the report may change how some firms do business with MSD. Change will often times be perceived as a scary prospect and create uncertainty. There is no doubt the business models of some contractors and firms will be directly impacted. This does not go unnoticed by MSD and we fully recognize what this means for our consulting firms, contractors, and vendors. However, not to implement the report’s recommendations would most likely violate the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution – the supporting case law is thoroughly listed in the disparity study. With that in mind, MSD is committed to constant monitoring and compliance verification of minority and women participation in its spending. (In fact, we have added two new positions within the past year in support of these efforts. As the disparity study’s recommendations are implemented, obtaining more support for these efforts and further staff additions will be evaluated.) If the data shows disparities resurfacing or changing, MSD is committed to evaluating the factual evidence of such and developing possible remedies.
We are sure that there are many questions and concerns our entire community has about the diversity study and its recommendations. With that in mind, between now and March 14 (the date of the next Board of Trustees meeting), MSD will conduct public meetings to discuss the disparity study. The first meeting will be with Mason Tillman, the firm that conducted the study. This meeting will be held on Monday, February 25, in the multi-purpose room of the student center at Florissant Valley Community College. Meeting time is 9:00 a.m. The college is located at 3400 Pershall Road, Ferguson, MO, 63135. Additionally, the disparity study will be on the agenda for the next Board of Trustees Stakeholder Committee meeting. The date and time for this committee meeting will be announced soon.
It’s important for the public to know more about Mason Tillman. Founded in 1978 by Eleanor Mason Ramsey, Ph.D., Mason Tillman is a nationally recognized authority on disparity studies. The firm has over 20 years of experience in designing and executing these studies. During that time, Mason Tillman has conducted 117 studies, on which the diversity policies of numerous governmental agencies across the country are based. Additionally, the firm’s surveys and interviews of business owners have produced a wealth of empirical knowledge about contracting processes. As evidenced by the fact that none of the disparity studies conducted by Mason Tillman has ever been legally overturned, the integrity of the firm’s research methods have withstood vigorous review.
MSD has a well-recognized diversity program. This has been the case for many years. It goes without saying that we are proud of our program and its performance. But change is constant and a key part of the continuous improvement philosophy we employ at MSD. As we invest $4.7 billion in our community over the next 23 years, everyone must be included. We will not claim perfection in our processes or in executing everything we have described here; we will not claim that there won’t be hiccups; and we will not claim that we will have this figured out in a few weeks, a few months, or even a few years. After all, this is a journey, not a destination. This disparity study is not an endpoint in our efforts to insure equal opportunity in MSD’s business practices and spending. Rather, it is a milestone – a significant milestone – in our inclusion efforts, and marks our continuing commitment to be a leader in our community.
To view the disparity study, click here.