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Breaking down South Bend's Diversity Purchasing Report

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — City leaders are hoping to employ more minority and women-owned businesses in 2018.

Christina Brooks, South Bend’s Diversity and Inclusion Officer, took a hard look at purchasing practices in 2017.

“While the numbers aren’t great, it’s also kind of a win for us that we finally know what it looks like for us, where we can actually target our resources to help small businesses grow,” said Brooks

Those numbers are outlined in the Annual Diversity Purchasing Report, recently submitted by Brooks.

According to the report, South Bend spent $101,702,744.20 on 5,715 purchase orders in 2017.

Five minority-owned businesses were awarded contracts from the city during that time worth $773,120.

That’s just 0.76 percent of the total amount spent.

Sanco Distributing is one of those businesses getting a piece of that small pie.

“I used to go in there every week and get an order, every week, park department, every week and then when they made it centralized,” said owner John Sanders. “Everything was competitive and then they just weeded me out basically. So I’m trying to get back in there though.”

Sanders supplies toiletries among other things for the city of South Bend.

He says bidding on city contracts has become harder for his fellow minority entrepreneurs.

But he thinks bringing more voices to the table could solve this problem.

“We need to meet and go from there and see what happens,” he said. “And then make an attempt to do business with minority businesses.”

 The city hired 20 women-owned businesses in 2017.

The combined cost for those contracts was $1,122,451, about 1.10 percent of the total amount spent.

Susan Caldwell is the owner of SC Supply Company, an online traffic safety gear provider and also a contractor for the city.

She says the numbers are low now but she believes there could be plenty of opportunities to grow if the city and community work together to cultivate more small businesses.

“Maybe putting out that these are the areas that we can really use women and minority owned businesses so that people can say ‘hey, I can fill that niche and can do that service,’” said Caldwell.

In total, $1,895,572.20, about 1.86 percent of the city purchase spending went to women or minority-owned businesses last year.

In 2016, that amount was $1,262,867.68.

According to the report it’s a .06% improvement from fiscal year 2016.

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