$750,000 Grant Fund Launched to Support Growth of Businesses, Access to City Contracts
Mayor Michelle Wu today relaunched the City of Boston’s Contracting Opportunity Fund with $750,000 available to help small, local businesses build their operational capacity and level the playing field for historically disadvantaged businesses interested in City contracts. The fund is part of Mayor Wu’s comprehensive approach to addressing disparities in the awarding of City contracts to small and diverse firms. Grants up to $15,000 will be available to qualified businesses that submit a competitive application.
Funds may be used, among other things, to purchase new equipment, expand a business’ rental space, acquire bonding or insurance, and provide other operating needs to allow the company to scale to the next level. The fund was designed through extensive dialogues and community conversations with small, diverse business owners to address barriers to business success in public contracting identified in the City’s 2020 Disparity Study. The study confirmed that businesses owned by women and people of color are widely available to perform City contracts, but are substantially underrepresented in the City’s spending on construction, professional services, and goods. This grant program is part of Mayor Wu’s commitment to support these small, minority- and women-owned businesses in becoming certified vendors and to make Boston an economically equitable city that offers opportunities for all communities to build wealth through business ownership.
“We must use every tool possible to break down barriers for businesses looking to win City contracts, expand economic opportunity, and ensure Boston is a city for everyone," said Mayor Michelle Wu. "The relaunching of the Contracting Opportunity Fund will help small, local businesses build their capacity and expand opportunity for our minority-owned and women-owned small businesses.”
This year, the Contracting Opportunity Fund will have a strong preference for funding applicants that operate businesses in a set of priority sectors in which the City does substantial contracting. Certified MBEs (minority-owned business enterprise), WBEs (woman-owned business enterprise), SLBEs (small local business enterprises), and City-recognized VBEs (veteran-owned enterprises) in the following sectors are encouraged to apply for grant funding: waste collection and management, snow removal, landscaping, design and architectural services, food and dining services, and construction (plumbing & hvac services; electrical work; general contracting services; roofing, siding, and flooring work; insulation, drywall, masonry, and weatherproofing work). Applicants must be certified with the City of Boston’s Supplier Diversity Program. More information about business certifications is available here.
These priority sectors have been chosen based on areas of high City spending, and will also be the focus of a new business accelerator pilot program launching this fall. Businesses selected to participate in this program will receive personalized and general consulting services, financial management tools, and City procurement support that will help them grow and prepare to bid on larger contracts in their industries. This program will build on Mayor Wu’s commitment to help diverse businesses become City contractors by bringing together City departments and business service organizations to provide a new level of intensive, sector specific technical assistance to help transform the City’s supplier base.
The Contracting Opportunity Fund application will be available here on Monday, April 10th at 12 p.m. Those interested can sign up here to receive an email notification from the Department of Supplier Diversity’s newsletter.
“This fund is yet another tool that this Administration is using to ensure we are investing in diverse companies and expanding opportunities to do business with them,” said Segun Idowu, Chief of Economic Opportunity and Inclusion. “Mayor Wu and our team are focused on responding to what we are hearing from local companies by filling funding gaps and removing any barrier to reaching our goal of creating equity in the City’s procurement process.”
In Spring 2022, the City’s Department of Supplier Diversity provided grants of up to $15,000 for certified MBE, WBE, SLBE, and City recognized VBEs to support capacity-building activities. A total of $1 million was awarded to 71 businesses, of which 71% were certified minority-owned businesses and 8% were women-owned businesses. At least 8 businesses that received past Contracting Opportunity Fund grants went on to win City contracts.
“The Boston Opportunity Fund has helped boost my business by giving me the ability to fund the necessary insurance coverage to help with growth,” said Brittany McLemore, owner of Breezie Cleaning and Janitorial Services and a previous Contracting Opportunity Fund grant recipient.
Breezie Cleaning and Janitorial Services is a Roxbury-based small and women-owned business that was awarded a contract to provide cleaning services for a City-owned building in Roxbury.
The renewal of this fund builds on significant investments made by the City of Boston in supplier diversity and equitable procurement initiatives since February of 2021 when it established annual City spending goals of 25% to women and minority-owned businesses. In May 2022, Mayor Wu and Boston Public Schools awarded City Fresh Foods, a Roxbury-based employee- and Black-owned food service company, a contract with a project value over $17 million, the largest non-construction contract to certified Black-owned business. In December 2022, the City awarded three companies owned by women or people of color with snow removal contracts, with two of those contracts being part of the City of Boston’s Sheltered Market Program to advance equity in procurement with direct outreach support from the Department of Supplier Diversity. In December 2021, Mayor Wu filed an order, later approved by the City Council, that allowed Boston to designate up to six City contracts for procurement from minority- and women-owned businesses. Through key investments in staffing and programmatic needs, the City is implementing new initiatives that seek to address the past and present effects of discrimination, disparities, obstacles, and barriers in its procurement process that impact minority-owned and women-owned businesses. More information is available here.
This renewal also builds on Mayor Wu’s years of commitment to require equitable City contracting and close the racial wealth gap. In 2016, then-Councilor Wu and then-Councilor Ayanna Pressley presided over the City Council hearing that examined the City’s procurement process and efforts to support local businesses. In 2017, Mayor Wu and Congresswoman Pressley co-sponsored an ordinance as City Councilors that required the City to collect more data on contracting. Mayor Wu passed a groundbreaking ordinance that required the City of Boston to shift its food procurement practices to meet certain standards around racial equity, fair pay for workers, environmental sustainability, and nutrition.