ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Calvin Ball today announced the launch of the County’s first ever disparity study to identify any opportunity gaps in the County’s procurement process with minority-owned, woman-owned and disabled-owned local businesses. The announcement was made at the Maryland Innovation Center, which is the site of the County’s Procurement Office. Photos from the event can be found here.


Today, we’re taking another major step forward with an investment of more than $400,000 for the development of Howard County’s first ever disparity study. The disparity study is an important tool that will help identify any gaps in our current contracting practices and business assistance programs. It will help us evaluate the County's efforts to encourage the participation of minority, woman-owned, and disabled-owned businesses by assessing the current contracting practices and business assistance programs in place.

Calvin Ball
Howard County Executive

A disparity study examines whether there are differences between the percentage of dollars that minority, woman-owned and disabled-owned businesses received in contracts during a specific time period, and the percentage of dollars that these businesses would be expected to receive based on their availability to perform those contracts. Comparing the utilization and availability of such businesses is referred to as a disparity analysis.

 “It was a pleasure joining County Executive Ball highlighting the County’s first Disparity Study,” said Councilmember Opel Jones. “During the height of the pandemic, our small, minority, and women-owned businesses kept the county afloat by providing outstanding services and goods. I am very intrigued and excited to review the data the Disparity Study will provide as Howard County continues to support local businesses.”

“The Howard County Chamber applauds the funding for the development of a disparity study to examine local procurement practices as it pertains to minority, women, and disabled businesses,” said Leonardo McClarty, President of the Howard County Chamber of Commerce. “If previous studies are any indication, this study will lead to new business opportunities for local and small businesses enabling them to grow and employ people.”

The study will be completed by MGT Consulting, a national public sector management consulting and technology services firm known to have conducted more unchallenged disparity studies than any other firm in the country.

The disparity study will examine the County’s efforts to encourage participation of minority-owned, woman-owned and disabled-owned businesses by assessing contracting practices and business assistance programs currently in place. MGT will provide recommendations to the County to improve equity among contracting and purchasing processes. The study will take 18-24 months to complete.

“The launching of the county's first disparity study is nothing short of historic,” said Dr. Anuja Sonalker, CEO of STEER. “Today, we have taken the ultimate founding step to creating a data-backed blueprint for equal business opportunities that will in turn rev up many new growth engines for the county's business initiatives. This in turn will fuel innovators, entrepreneurs and non-mainstream small businesses into their best yet. A business lifecycle is born today!” 

Funding to conduct the disparity study was announced in the County Executive’s FY24 Operating Budget, presented to the County Council earlier this month.

“I am pleased that Howard County has committed to conducting a disparity study to determine whether there are procurement disparities in our contracting practices,” said Howard County Councilmember Deb Jung. “Four years ago, I asked that such a study be conducted, and we are now in the position to undertake this task. I feel confident that if the findings indicate the need to redouble our outreach efforts to minority and women-owned businesses, this administration will do so.”

At the beginning of Dr. Ball’s first term as County Executive five years ago, only 100 firms were certified in the Local Business Initiative with the Office of Procurement and Contract Administration. Today, there are more than 365 firms, with nearly $23 million dollars spent to date with certified local businesses.

“We believe the study will open up opportunities for small and minority-owned businesses, and be the foundation that will allow us to assess and improve how we do business in the County,” said Jason Peay, Chair of the Equal Business Opportunity Commission.

“The Central Maryland Chamber applauds the County’s efforts to ensure that businesses are being given equal opportunities to bid and receive county contracting opportunities, said Kristi Simon, President of the Central Maryland County Chamber of Commerce. “Ensuring that all businesses- including small, minority, woman, Veteran, and disabled-owned businesses are given equal opportunities to bid on and secure county contracts is important and increased transparency is welcomed.”

 “I am excited about this disparity study in Howard County. County government and businesses in Howard County understand the importance of supplier diversity, economic inclusion, monitoring and reporting in this county,” said Glinda Jackson, President of the Jackson Management Group.


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