Columbia aims to increase number of minority and woman-owned businesses

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COLUMBIA — The Columbia City Council is hoping to boost more businesses owned by minorities and women with a new policy. 

According to a news release, the policy is part of the city's 2016-2019 strategic plan that aims to increase participation of minority and woman-owned businesses in city contracts.

Giselle Ballenger, the owner of Nehemiah Group, said she is running both a minority and woman-owned business.

"It's really difficult to try to break into the market where is predominantly been run by larger companies," Ballenger said. 

Ballenger said the new policy will bring a lot of benefits for local small businesses.

"I think that is gonna be beneficial because it will be able to open the doors for smaller companies that are upcoming like us, to be able to sit this table and to get a chance to bit on jobs that are larger than we had before," Ballenger said. "Also, it's gonna help to open our eyes to see exactly what we need to do, to be able to compete with larger companies."

Ballenger said one of the problems minority-owned businesses have is the bonding issue, which may prevent them from taking on larger dollar contracts. 

"It's really hard to get in on jobs that have such a high bond because we don't have high-bonding capabilities, so that's kind of difficult for us to be able to break into the market to do larger jobs," Ballenger said. 

According to a news release, the business will also be encouraged to become certified as a minority or woman-owned business through the Missouri Office of Equal Opportunity or the Missouri Department of Transportation.