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Disparity study update notes improvements in economic opportunity, pinpoints needs
MGT of America, Inc. presented the findings of the Oregon Department of Transportation’s 2011 Disparity Study Update this week, spotlighting a number of key accomplishments in the department’s efforts to ensure that minority-owned firms can compete effectively for ODOT contracts and also noted areas needing improvement.

The update is a follow up to a 2007 study that found disparity had occurred in subcontracting with disadvantaged business enterprises (DBEs) owned by African Americans and Asian Americans. As a result of the findings in 2007, which analyzed ODOT’s contracting practices over an eight-year period, ODOT set hard goals in specific areas. The 2011 update reviewed activities since re-instating hard goals and found support for using race conscious DBE goals in specific areas. (DBEs include those that are at least 51 percent owned and controlled by women or minorities and other businesses on a case-by-case basis.)
Key findings from the 2011 Disparity Study Update include the following:
  • Re-instating selective hard goals helped increase construction work awarded to Asian Pacific American-owned businesses.
  • There is still substantial disparity in awarding construction work to African American- and Sub-continent Asian American-owned businesses.
  • There is substantial disparity in awarding A&E/professional services work for most groups: African American-, Hispanic American-, Sub-continent Asian American-, Native American-, and nonminority women-owned businesses.

Construction worker on an ODOT project.
MGT’s study includes seven recommendations. ODOT’s Office of Civil Rights, Small Business Support and Workforce Development is already working on several of them, including applying to the federal government to amend the current waiver of its rule against setting DBE goals for specific groups in order to meet the requirements of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to narrowly tailor a state’s program. The amended waiver would allow ODOT to set hard goals on construction and design contracts for the specific groups where a substantial disparity has been proven to exist. ODOT’s leadership team will be reviewing and responding to each recommendation in-depth in the coming weeks. The full study is available online on ODOT’s Civil Rights website.