A study commissioned by Bob Hope Airport to ensure its compliance with federal diversity mandates found that while the airfield is doing a better-than-expected job contracting with businesses owned by white women, its use of minority-owned firms is lagging.

The study, which was initiated in 2010, measures the disparity between how much of the airport's contract funds went to minority-owned and women-owned businesses, and what that percentage should be, based on the number of those businesses in the area that are qualified, available and willing to do the work.

As part of the study, Keen Independent Research surveyed 1,500 businesses in the Los Angeles area and $120 million worth of airport contracts awarded between 2005-2009.

Of those contracts, 17% went to minority-owned and women-owned businesses, significantly less than the nearly 30% the study found should be expected, based on the availability of those businesses.

Breaking down that figure, however, finds that businesses owned by white women received 9.1% of the contract dollars, higher than the expected figure of 8.2%.

Minority-owned businesses received only 8.2% of the contract funds, compared to an anticipated 21.2%.

The study is part of the airport's compliance with the Federal Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program, which seeks to ensure a level playing field and remedy any past or current discrimination against minority and female business owners.

Any state or local government that receives funds from U.S. Department of Transportation, including projects paid for by the Federal Aviation Administration, must use a federally-approved percentage of those contract funds on disadvantaged enterprise businesses.

At a meeting of the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority earlier this month, David Keen, principal at Keen Independent, said the study group did extensive public outreach. While the response was minimal — which "could be seen as a good sign," Keen said — not all feedback was positive.

"There were some comments like, 'We don't think it's fair,' 'There's not enough information on the contracts that are out there,' 'How do you find out about airport work?' 'How do you secure airport work?'" Keen said.

The next step for the airfield is to develop a program to set new target percentages for disadvantaged businesses and establish ways to reach those percentages. The program must be submitted to the FAA by September.

Until 2006, the airfield had a program in place to monitor how many women- and minority-owned businesses it contracted with, but it was discontinued due to a policy change by the Department of Transportation to use a race- and gender-neutral program.

Keen said the airport shouldn't attempt to create its own programs to fix structural discrimination, but instead should refer businesses to existing programs.

"Don't try to build your own solutions for problems that are as huge as access to capital," he said. "Leverage existing programs and act as a referring body … be part of the network."

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Follow Daniel Siegal on Google+ and on Twitter: @Daniel_Siegal.

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