Houston's Program To Help Women-Owned Businesses Gets Revamped

After today, set-asides for women-owned businesses in Houston may be set aside forever.  

The move stems from a federal lawsuit brought in 1996 by business owner Robert Kossman who alleged the city's MWBE program discriminated against him because he was white.

U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes gave the city until today to make good on the proposed settlement, which required them to revamp the current construction subcontracting goals for women and pay Kossman $50,000 in damages and $125,000 for legal fees.

The proposed changes would eliminate the current construction subcontracting goal of 3 percent for women-owned businesses. Small-business set-asides, which obviously can include women, are expanding to eight from five percent; the minority-owned goal remains 14 percent.

The goals are not mandated quotas, but you have to show a good-faith effort to meet them.

So what does that mean for women-owned business?

"The decision will probably negatively affect women contractors' job opportunities," City Controller Annise Parker tells Hair Balls. "I believe that we have to wait for the results of a new disparity study to accurately measure the impact of not including women."

Parker -- the only woman running for mayor -- said, "Both the prior MWBE program and the current three percent 'set-aside' for female contractors allow female-owned businesses the opportunity to compete for City of Houston contracts for which they might otherwise never be considered."

So what to do? Wait and see, essentially.

"If the changes to the program negatively affect women-owned businesses, then a new MWBE program should be designed to ensure that all minority-owned businesses are given a fair shot at competing for government contracts," Parker said.

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