Wharton: City Contract Procurement Overhaul Coming Next Month

By Bill Dries

The day after he released a report on how to make city government more efficient, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. told those at an East Memphis luncheon his administration has more plans for reforming the city’s economic development outlook and strategy.

Wharton made the comments Tuesday as he spoke to more than 100 members of the Memphis chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners at Crescent Center.

“This is why we have been left out,” Wharton said, referring to a splintered economic development pitch. “Taxes and crime are a problem everywhere.”

Wharton said after the remarks that in about a month, his administration will announce an overhaul of the process City Hall uses for awarding contracts and change its procurement practices.

“It won’t be a new department. It will be a new program that will bridge the gaps that presently exist,” Wharton said later.

Small business owners have complained in the past that city procurement contracts are bid as large pieces that made it nearly impossible to consider small businesses. They have advocated breaking up such contracts whenever possible into smaller pieces giving more opportunities to locally owned small businesses.

Wharton touted a move by the city away from the MWBE program – Minority Women’s Business Enterprises – which certifies minority vendors to do business with city government.

The recently opened Business Opportunities Program replaces the city’s MWBE program.

“It’s more inclusive,” Wharton said of the new program “It includes all ethnic divisions, small business and women.”