The Metropolitan Council will soon be doing more business with small companies owned by people with disabilities, women, veterans and minorities. The Council voted Wednesday to expand the Metropolitan Council Underutilized Business (MCUB) program, which will add almost 1,000 small businesses to the pool of companies that can bid for contracts.
Currently, the Council works with over 1,800 disadvantaged and underutilized businesses. By expanding its criteria to include other certifications recognized by the State and other regional governments, the Council will increase the number of businesses it works with to 2,800.
The vote also creates a “sheltered market,” which will allow the businesses to compete exclusively with one another for contracts for goods and services ranging from office supplies to technical work like architecture and engineering. Those contracts range in size from $5,000 to $100,000.
“Small businesses owned by women and minorities and people in the disability community are not represented as well as they could be on our balance sheets,” said Metropolitan Council Chair Alene Tchourumoff. “This is part of an ongoing effort across the Council to reach out to diverse communities and ensure everyone benefits from our work.
“Getting a contract with any government agency can be difficult. By working with these businesses, they can compete on a level playing field,” said Tchourumoff. “In the long run, taxpayers benefit when more companies know how to bid for these contracts, because there is more competition.”
Businesses in the MCUB program will receive training on how to do business with the government and bid effectively. They are then allowed to compete in the sheltered market for contracts. Businesses are graduated from the program after they have received three contracts or $200,000 worth of business, whichever comes first.
Tchourumoff points to the region’s changing demographics as evidence of the need to reach out to a more diverse group of vendors. Today, 26 percent of the region’s population is people of color; by 2040, that number will be 40 percent.
“The companies we do business with should be representative of the people in our region,” said Tchourumoff.
The Council expects to identify all of the new MCUB participants by the end of September and award the first contracts in October.