Baton Rouge to release disparity study by Thanksgiving

    City-parish officials are aiming to have its much-discussed disparity study available to the public by Thanksgiving.

    It’s a couple of months later than the original timeline given in July 2018, when Mayor Sharon Weston Broome selected Denver-based Keen Independent Research to conduct the $300,000 study, examining whether disparities exist for small, minority and woman- and veteran-owned businesses. The firm began the study last September, then estimating it would take one year to complete.

    More recently, however, officials have been giving a rough timeline for the study, which falls more in line with the Thanksgiving target. But Mark Armstrong, spokesman for the mayor’s office, says the deadline won’t cost the city-parish any additional money.

    “Collecting the data is a multilayered process where we reach out to our contractors for information,” Armstrong says in a text message. “The firm doing the study is being thorough.”

    Keen Independent Research Group has conducted more than 100 disparity studies across the country, including one last year in New Orleans. Six months ago, the firm launched an “availability survey” to assess the vendor landscape in Baton Rouge, including how many and which Disadvantaged Business Enterprises were available for city-parish contracts. They also held a town hall to gain qualitative insight.

    In an email this morning, Annette Humm Keen, the firm’s principal, declined to comment before speaking with city-parish officials but said she was “meeting later today” with them.

    The mayor signed an executive order for the disparity study in November 2017. Ultimately, it’s meant to be the first in a series of steps to extend government contracts to a wider group of businesses.

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