The New Orleans City Council will consider the latest disadvantaged business enterprise (DBE) program ordinance Thursday, June 20. The ordinance was approved by the council's Economic Development and Special Projects Committee last week. The DBE program met with universal crowd support during the committee's meeting and guarantees at least 35 percent of city contracts will be awarded to minority business owners.
Arkebia Matthews, director of the city's Office of Supplier Diversity, said the program has grown from 440 firms in 2011 to more than 600 in 2012, and from contracts totaling $32 million in 2011 to more than $40 million in 2012 — despite the office inheriting a program in 2012 with no records of contracts or whether the firms were in compliance with DBE standards, Matthews said.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu's economic development officer Aimee Quirk also used the meeting to tout citywide retail projects, including Big Lots in eastern New Orleans; more than 18,000 square feet of retail on Canal Street; H&M's 32,000-square-foot store on North Peters Street adjacent to the French Quarter; and summer groundbreakings in Gentilly (for Walmart) and the Warehouse District (for the South Market retail-housing center). Construction will be completed later this summer on the Mid-City Marketplace on North Carrollton Avenue, and the ReFresh Project and Whole Foods Market on Broad Street, which broke ground in May, are scheduled to open in early 2014.
— Alex Woodward