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State of Washington Disparity Study

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The State of Washington is conducting a Disparity Study for its utilization of minority-, women- and veteran-owned business enterprises (M/W/VBEs).  This research project is designed to evaluate whether such businesses have equal access to contracting opportunities on State prime contracts and associated subcontracts. The study will also evaluate barriers to State contracting and recommend strategies to ensure all firms in the Washington community can participate in State opportunities.

A Disparity Study involves compilation of evidence to determine whether M/W/VBEs have parity in State work, and if not, what narrowly tailored remedies might be supportable. The Study will include statistical evidence of the agencies’ utilization of M/W/VBEs, the availability of such businesses as a percentage of all firms in the State’s market area and relevant industries, and whether there are disparities, if any, between the availability of M/W/VBEs and their utilization on agency contracts and related subcontracts, and throughout the area economy as a whole.

Click here to download the Washington State FAQ.

The Study will further examine factors necessary for entrepreneurial success, such as access to business capital, bonding, networks, suppliers, etc. It will also gather anecdotal evidence of any continuing effects of past or present race and sex discrimination. Another important component is a review of the State’s current race- and gender-neutral programs and recommendations for future initiatives and enhancements.

The study will not duplicate the Washington State Department of Transportation disparity study that is now underway. To learn more about the differences between the two studies, click here to download the DBE Study Comparison document provided by the Washington State Department of Transportation and State Department of Enterprise Services, which is overseeing the study contract on behalf of the state.

Following a competitive proposal process, the contract for this Study has been awarded to Colette Holt & Associates (CHA), a nationally recognized expert team on disparity studies and D/M/WBE programs, in conjunction with local partners F. M. Burch & Associates and Blackstar Services, Inc.

How can you be involved?

The participation of stakeholders and business owners is critical to the Study’s outcomes in two important ways.

Interested persons can be part of the process for anecdotal data collection by participating in public meetings, stakeholder group sessions or a focus group of business owners to share experiences and insights. It is very important that all firms and stakeholders, such as industry organizations, community groups and chambers of commerce with an interest in the State’s contracting activities participate. The information generated from these sessions will be an important component of the analysis of whether M/W/VBEs receive full and fair chances to compete for State work. In the coming months, public meetings, stakeholder sessions and business owner interviews will be held at convenient locations throughout the state.

The Study team will contact businesses to confirm information on specific contracts and/or to receive additional contract information that is currently not available or accessible to the State of Washington agencies. Since government agencies often only maintain contracting records related to prime contracts, the consultant must rely on prime firms to supplement the agencies contract data. This information is critical to developing an accurate analysis of the utilization of M/W/VBEs on the State of Washington’s agencies’ projects. With the support and assistance of business owners, the Study will present a complete picture of the State’s contracting activities. Some firms will be contacted to provide such data. CHA will work with the firms to make the process as easy as possible.