Champaign looks to broaden diversity incentive program

Champaign looks to broaden diversity incentive program

CHAMPAIGN — Champaign City council members will vote this week on expanding diversity incentive payments to any project commissioned by the city of Champaign.

As of now, such incentives are only used in Champaign's public works department, which focuses on infrastructure, buildings, land and vehicle equipment. There are 15 other city departments.

If approved Tuesday night, the expanded incentives would apply to female- and minority-owned businesses, as well as others the city contracts with.

Dennis Schmidt, Champaign's public works director, said a business starts qualifying for incentives if its workforce diversity exceeds 15 percent. That threshold, he said, was set based on the size of Champaign's minority population.

"Dollars that the city spends should reflect the diversity of the community," Schmidt said.

"We shouldn't just do businesses with contractors who employ white males."

Projects with state or federal funding aren't eligible for the incentive program because of funding regulations, according to a city staff report.

Councilman Will Kyles said he likes how the proposal broadens the responsibility of diverse employment.

"The economics of a community matter so much when you talk about how we decrease negative things in our community, like violence," Kyles said.

He is optimistic, but Kyles noted that change doesn't come from a council vote alone.

"It's just the beginning of the real work. ... It's going to take time," he said.

"Policy is only as good as its compliance."

The city launched diversity incentive payments for public works as a pilot program in fiscal 2013-14.

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