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Harris County Disparity Study

Harris County is conducting a Disparity Study about its utilization of Minority and Women/ Business Enterprises (MWBEs). This research project will examine whether all firms have equal access to contracting opportunities on the County’s prime contracts and associated subcontracts and recommend strategies to ensure full and fair competition in County contracting.

The study will gather and analyze two types of evidence. First, it will examine statistical evidence of the County’s utilization of M/WBEs, and the availability of such businesses as a percentage of all firms in the County’s market area and relevant industries. The study will examine whether there are disparities, if any, between the availability of MWBEs and their utilization on County contracts and related subcontracts. The research will also analyze whether M/WBEs experience disparities throughout the Houston metropolitan area economy as a whole.

Second, the Study will gather qualitative or anecdotal evidence of any continuing effects of past or present race and sex discrimination, as well as factors necessary for entrepreneurial success, such as equal access to business capital, bonding, networks, suppliers, etc.

Another important component is a review of the Harris County’s current policies.

Finally, the study will present recommendations for future initiatives and enhancements, including, if supported by the evidence, the use of contract goals.

The contract for this study has been awarded to Colette Holt & Associates (CHA), a nationally recognized expert team on disparity studies and M/WBE programs.

How can you be involved? The participation of business owners is critical to the study’s outcomes in two important ways.

First, the study team will contact some businesses to confirm information on specific contracts and/or to receive additional contract information that is currently not available or accessible to the County. Since government agencies like the County often only maintain certain records, the consultant must rely on prime firms to supplement the County’s contract data. This information is critical to developing an accurate analysis of the utilization of MWBEs on County projects. With the support and assistance of business owners, the study will present a complete picture of the County’s contracting activity. CHA will work with the firms to make the process as easy as possible.

Second, interested persons and groups can be part of the process for anecdotal data collection by participating in a public meeting, and focus groups of business owners to share experiences, insights and recommendations. The information generated from these sessions will be an important component of the analysis and recommendations. To learn about sessions pertinent to your type of business, please email Colette Holt at


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