Akron officials are taking a “deep dive” into how they spend, and are finding that minority-owned businesses are not getting a fair shake when it comes to city contracts. That’s according to Mayor Dan Horrigan, who told the crowd at his annual State of the City address that the city also wants to hire a more diverse workforce.
In the first address of his second term, the mayor reflected on initiatives like the Bowery Project and BOUNCE Innovation Hub – and how he plans to continue building on those initiatives.
But he also advocated for hiring a more diverse city workforce, and especially awarding more city contracts to minority-owned businesses. Currently, only about 5 percent of contracts go to such companies.
“We weren’t doing a good enough job and asked ourselves, 'If we’re going to talk about diversity, and housing diversity and all the other things we’re trying to do, how are we spending our money?' And as we started to look at it, we just didn’t like what it looked like.”
He says a comprehensive review of how to reach out to minority businesses is on the way. And he’s also creating a “Supplier Diversity” position to guide those efforts. During the speech, Horrigan called on community leaders to starting hiring a more diverse workforce as well.
As Horrigan reflected on 2019, he noted that the city drew criticism in January 2019 for its slow response to a storm, which left many people snowed in. Horrigan says there’s nothing he would have done differently.
“Even when you talk about the snowstorm from last year, we critically evaluated ourselves and said, ‘Okay this is a critical service at a critical time – let’s find the resources, let’s do it, let’s come up with a plan.’ And we did.”
Horrigan also acknowledged the challenges of ongoing downtown construction, and said phase one of the Main Street project is slated to be complete this summer. And he encouraged everyone to increase support for “Full-Term First Birthday” – a program to reduce Akron’s infant mortality rate.
You can hear Mayor Horrigan’s speech tonight at 8 p.m. on WKSU. A text version is below: