Results of recent disparity study revealed major issues that led to the creation of program that seeks to provide new opportunities for small and minority, and women-owned businesses
ABOVE: Adrian Garcia, Harris County Commissioner, Precinct 2; Cheryl Creuzot, Port Commissioner; Ingrid Robinson, President, Houston Minority Supplier Development Council; Roger Guenther, Executive Director, Port Houston; Dr. Laura Murillo, President & CEO, Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Mayor Sylvester Turner; Wendy Montoya-Cloonan, Port Commissioner and Chair of Business Equity Committee; Rodney Ellis, Harris County Commissioner, Precinct 1; and Tim Jeffcoat, District Director, U.S. Small Business Administration.
This past week, Port Houston held a press conference to announce the launch of their new MWBE Business Equity Program, which was formed to help generate more opportunities for small and minority, and women-owned businesses.
The creation of this Business Equity Program came after the results of a recent disparity study revealed major issues concerning the limited number of small and minority, and women-owned businesses that were doing business with Port Houston.
“I want to congratulate Port Houston on the creation of its new Business Equity Division,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “It is not just about getting in the door, it is also about building capacity. With this Business Equity Division, the port now has the ability to facilitate a vigorous race and gender conscience program that strengthens support and expands contracting opportunities for minority- and women-owned business enterprises at the port, throughout the City of Houston and our local region.”
Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis expressed his excitement about the new program, but states that he will be watching and monitoring the outcomes.
“This is the right thing to do, and I am so proud of you for doing it,” said Commissioner Ellis. “This should not have happened by accident. It’s important for us to help all businesses, but let’s be real, we need to ask who gets left behind. I want to single out African Americans, because throughout my political career have generally been the ones who suffered the most from discrimination, fought the hardest to change it, and have benefited the least from changes that have come about. The challenge is that one year from now, we need to come back and ask the question of whether we have done better.”
Much praise was given to Wendy Montoya-Cloonan, Port Commissioner and Chair of the Business Equity Committee, and Port Commissioner Cheryl Creuzot, for helping make this new program a reality.
“The port is the crown jewel of our economy,” Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo released in a statement regarding the Business Equity Program. “But like economic opportunity, the port has not historically been accessible to all. We’ve worked hard to knock down barriers and I congratulate the Business Equity Committee and all who have strived to make this moment possible. Together, we are ensuring that our county continues to be a model for opportunity and competition, and that entrepreneurs aren’t fighting with one hand tied behind their back.”
Remarks were also given from Harris County Pct. 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia; Ingrid Robinson, President, Houston Minority Supplier Development Council; a representative from the Women’s Business Enterprise Alliance; Tim Jeffcoat, District Director, U.S. Small Business Administration; Roger Guenther, Executive Director, Port
Houston; and Shanita Johnson, President, BKJ Global Management and Port Houston success story.
The journey to get to this point was rather swift and seamless.
At their March 26, 2019, meeting, the Port Commission approved the procurement of disparity study consulting services to review local minority, women, small and disadvantaged business participation in Port Authority procurement and contracting.
In July 2019, Port Houston commissioned Griffin & Strong, P.C. to conduct a comprehensive independent contracting Disparity Study. Upon the conclusion of the study, disparities were identified, and Port Houston used the knowledge gained from the study to create the foundation for the Business Equity Program.
The Port Commission, at its December 8, 2020, meeting, instructed Port Authority staff to develop measures to address disparities in the participation of small-, minority-, and woman-owned business enterprises (SMWBE) in Port Authority contracts.
Port Houston Executive Director Roger Guenther then went on to create a new Business Equity Division to report to him, with a focus on providing “vision, leadership, and guidance” towards Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts and “with a focus on promoting equity and enhancing opportunity for all, both internally and externally.”
“Taking this step will elevate the profile of DEI at Port Houston, ensuring we have the organizational weight and leadership needed to produce meaningful and sustainable change.” said Guenther. “Building on recent work on contracting disparities, external DEI efforts will include new opportunities for small and minority, and women-owned businesses to access Port Houston business.”
The Business Equity Division will allow businesses to connect with other local business owners and expand their network; access Port Houston procurement opportunities; learn more about government procurements and application process; access the Port Houston mentorship program; and leverage their certification(s) with their partner agencies.
Getting certified through one of our partner agencies is a critical step in our enrollment process.
Port Houston is not a certifying entity but does recognize certifications from the following certifying agency partners:
- City of Houston
- Houston Minority Supplier Development Council
- Small Business Administration 8(a)
- South Central Texas Regional Certification Agency – SCTRCA
- Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts – HUB Certification
- Texas Department of Transportation – TxDOT
- Women’s Business Enterprise Alliance
Enrollment in the Small Business and/or Minority- and Woman-Owned Business Enterprise Development Program requires your company to submit an application attesting to its eligibility for the program and that the Policy and Procedures for the program have been read.
Please contact the following members of the Port Houston team with any questions or technical issues regarding the Business Equity enrollment process:
Natasha Ainsworth, Certification Generalist
Brenda Ruiz, Business Compliance Analyst
Pedro Garcia, Outreach Manager
For more information and to enroll in the Business Equity Program, please visit
The Houston Ship Channel complex and its more than 200 public and private terminals, collectively known as the Port of Houston is the nation’s largest port ranked #1 in the U.S. for waterborne tonnage. It is an essential economic engine for the Houston region, the state of Texas, and the U.S. The Port of Houston supports the creation of nearly 1.35 million jobs in Texas and 3.2 million jobs nationwide, and economic activity totaling $339 billion in Texas – 20.6 percent of Texas’ total gross domestic product (GDP) – and $801.9 billion in economic impact across the nation. For more than 100 years, Port Houston has owned and operated the public wharves and terminals along the Houston Ship Channel, including the area’s largest breakbulk facility and two of the most efficient and fastest-growing container terminals in the country. Port Houston is the advocate and a strategic leader for the Channel. The Houston Ship Channel complex and its more than 200 public and private terminals, collectively known as the Port of Houston it is the nation’s largest port for waterborne tonnage and an essential economic engine for the Houston region, the state of Texas, and the U.S.
For more information, visit Port Houston’s website at: www.porthouston.com.