TRENTON, NJ  - Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes announced on Friday that the County is seeking feedback from area businesses about the disparities they face is starting, maintaining, and growing a business. Led by the Mercer County Small Business Outreach Program, the Disparity Study will examine the availability and use of minority-owned, veteran-owned, women-owned and other small businesses in Mercer County’s procurement of goods and services. It also will gather information that would result in greater participation of diverse small businesses in Mercer County contracting opportunities.

Mercer County reported that securing a government contract can make a big difference to startups and businesses of all sizes in terms of job security for employees and business growth. Many Small Business Enterprises (SBE); Women Business Enterprises (WBE), Minority Business Enterprises (MBE), or Veteran Operated Businesses (VOB), are generally unsure of how to navigate the public bidding process. 

County officials want to find out the extent to which these disparities exist in contracting with these businesses. 

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“We know there are many small businesses that would benefit by working with Mercer County, but are unfamiliar with the public procurement process. We are committed to increasing the number of diverse firms contracting with Mercer County," said Hughes.

The Mercer County Disparity Study will look for barriers that hinder small or diverse businesses from participating in the county bidding process and result in providing a clearer understanding of the overall needs small businesses encounter. The data collected from the study will inform researchers and policymakers about the size and nature of any disparities found, and whether discrimination was a factor, officials said. These findings, they hope, will help to improve and refine policies for county contracting, and enable the County of Mercer to promote greater equity for small businesses.

The Mercer County Office of Economic Development estimated that there were more than 9,500 small-business firms based in Mercer County prior to COVID-19; however, the pandemic has inordinately impacted them.

“The timing of this study will reveal challenges that existed before COVID, and determine what these businesses now need to rebound,” Hughes said.

In addition to a thorough review of procurement and business records, researchers will survey and interview hundreds of business owners, chambers of commerce representatives, lenders, small-business advocates, county administrators and others who will bring valuable insights to the study. An electronic survey is available for any interested business owners in Mercer County.

To learn more about the Disparity Study, please contact James Chambers Jr. at jchambers@mercercounty.org, (609) 989-6212 or Wendy Sturgeon, Wsturgeon@mercercounty.org  (609) 989-6503.

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