The Metro Nashville Airport Authority (MNAA) has adopted a set of policies geared to improving the diversity of companies contracted to complete airport work.
The policies, according to the MNAA, follow the recommendation of a recently completed disparity study aimed at broadening opportunities for business partnerships with small minority women’s business enterprises, subject to further legal review.
Marilyn Robinson, president of the Nashville branch of the NAACP, said she considers the new policies to be a positive addition to MNAA practices. The issue of improving diversity of contracted companies is a major issue locally that is being addressed by entities ranging from Metro government to the Nashville Electric Service, she said.
“Many cities are far ahead of us, but we’re going to get there,” Robinson said. “We are very pleased.”
The study’s recommendations — which were unanimously endorsed by the MNAA board of commissioners Wednesday — call for the MNAA to develop “comprehensive policies and procedures” for its existing Small, Minority and Women Business Enterprise (SMWBE) program including unbundling large projects and bidding them based on their components, and review and lowering of insurance and bonding requirements on all contracts if it is determined that MNAA’s interests will still be protected.
“Our primary purpose in doing this study was to make our existing SMWBE program as strong as possible,” said Raul Regalado, president and CEO of the MNAA, in a statement. “We plan to aggressively address the issues raised in the study, including our outreach efforts, which we are already increasing. We have also begun the comprehensive policy review recommended by the report.”
Program unique to BNA
The MNAA’s existing SMWBE program was created in 2002 to foster contracting minority-owned businesses for locally funded airport projects. The SMWBE loosely mirrors a federally mandated program that serves a similar purpose for projects funded by federal grants.
Airport officials say BNA is unique in having a program that applies exclusively to locally funded projects. The City Paper could not find statistics to support this, but a spokesperson for the Washington, D.C.-based Airport Minority Advisory Council said she did not know of other cities with similar programs.
By airport accounts, the SMWBE has been a success — by 2006, the airport had surpassed its previously set minority contract percentage goals.
In September 2006, the airport’s setting of numerical goals was suspended. Robert Watson, MNAA senior vice president and chief legal officer, said in February that the airport had received one letter from an activist group. Without a statistically sound disparity study on file, Watson said, MNAA officials were concerned the program was an invitation for a lawsuit.