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140 Local M/WBE Firms Benefit from $70 Million in Harris Health Contracts

HOUSTON (Feb. 23, 2024) — More than 15 months after adopting its minority-and women-owned business enterprise (M/WBE) program in September 2022, Harris Health System reports* awarding more than $70 million in contracts to 140 M/WBE firms to achieve a 20% milestone of working with more minority- and women-owned businesses—achieving its initial aspirational goal.

“While our annual report (October 2022 to September 2023) shows amazing gains in our M/WBE program, the program continues to excel," says Derek J. Holmes, vice president, Contract Administration and Contractor Diversity, Harris Health, a new department set up to achieve greater contractor diversity. “In fiscal year 2024, we're still seeing our overall awarding of M/WBE contracts well above our aspirational goal. That's an increase of 152% since the program kicked off in 2022."

Harris Health first reported its low percentage of M/WBE contracts in April 2022 after it commissioned a disparity study to examine its practices. Conducted by Colette Holt & Associates, the study found that Harris Health had only achieved a 7.9% utilization rate of M/WBE contracts for fiscal years 2018 and 2019. 

“The unwavering support from Harris Health's senior leadership and the Board of Trustees has made these achievements possible," Holmes adds. “Although there is still much work ahead, I am exceptionally pleased with the program's establishment and the exciting initiatives on the horizon."

The study examined whether firms have equal access to contracting opportunities on Harris Health's prime contracts and associated subcontracts. It also made strategy recommendations to ensure full and fair competition. Many of the recommendations Harris Health has already adopted include creating race-and-gender-conscious measures for its procurement programs, and creating a senior leadership position to oversee efforts toward diversity and inclusion in contracting.

“The study, while painful to see, gave us a road map and a starting point to offer more opportunities for M/WBE and small businesses to help support Harris Health's mission to serve our community with high-quality healthcare for all Harris County residents," says Esmaeil Porsa, MD, president and CEO, Harris Health. “I'm proud of our efforts to this point, but realize there is much work to make the awarding of contracts an equitable and sustainable reality."

Since the creation of its Contractor Diversity Department, Harris Health has achieved an impressive 139% increase in M/WBE contractor awards. Through an aggressive campaign to educate the community, the contractor program has been able to assist local M/WBE firms engage with Harris Health, pursue contracts, expand their capacities and directly open more business opportunities to support the system.

Other milestones achieved by the M/WBE program for fiscal year (October 2022 to September 2023):
  • Achieved 18.9% contract awards to M/WBE firms
  • Awarded 100 individual contracts using 126 M/WBE firms
  • Participated in outreach to about 20,000 contractor touchpoints
  • Solidified an M/WBE policy including race and gender-neutral procedures
  • Hired a program director and supporting team
  • Hosted internal and external training on program requirements
  • Launched a resource center and capacity-building initiatives 

The successful passage of Harris Health's $2.5 billion bond election in November 2023, holds great promise to increase the opportunities for M/WBE and small business well into the next decade, Holmes says.

“Looking ahead, I am particularly excited about the upcoming hospital and clinic campus expansion projects and the opportunity those projects will bring to the Contractor Diversity Program," he adds. “The LBJ Hospital campus, with its rich history in northeast Harris County, is set to undergo significant growth with plans for a new hospital, central utility plant and a parking garage to enhance the provision of medical, social and mental healthcare and outpatient services." 

A full copy of the Harris Health Contractor Diversity Program Annual Report​ (fiscal year October 2022 to September 2023) is available at 

*Reported figures of $70 million and 140 M/WBE firms reflect the 15-month time period since inception of the program. Information and figures in the annual report represent fiscal year (October 2022 to September 2023).