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Orleans mayor, council tout minority business law

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — New Orleans City Council members and Mayor Mitch Landrieu are touting their latest effort to strengthen opportunities for participation in government contracts by minority- and women-owned businesses.

Council legislation passed and signed Thursday maintains the city's goal of 35 percent participation by what are deemed "disadvantaged business enterprises." Its supporters say it also improves the DBE program in numerous ways.

Among the improvements outlined by the city: the program will implement specific goals for each contract based on the availability of DBEs in the relevant market sector. It will allow the 35 percent participation goal to be higher or lower as determined on a project-by-project basis. It also establishes sanctions for non-compliance for prime contractors and DBE subcontractors. Those sanctions include possible termination of city contracts.

At a City Hall signing ceremony Thursday, Landrieu and council members said the new law assures ample opportunity for minority- and women-owned businesses to participate in the city's continued rebuilding.

"We have to make sure everybody's at the table as we continue to rebuild," council member Kristin Gisleson Palmer said.

"This is about leveling the playing field and giving our local, minority-owned businesses access to opportunities to grow and flourish," said council member Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.

Don Harding, owner of Cool Fruit Sensations, a certified DBE, talked up the program as he stressed the city's many opportunities for entrepreneurs.

Harding, an African-American who said the existing DBE program in the city helped his business grow with access and information, also said the program doesn't guarantee success. "They turn the lights on, they let you in, they open the door," said Harding. "But you have to do your part."

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