(Cincinnati) -- Pointing out that Cincinnati's population is 50% African-American, and less than 3% of th the City's contracts are with black-owned businesses, Mayor John Cranley launched an effort to improve the business climate for minority business enterprises (MBE), and companies owned by other minority groups, or women.

The Mayor's plan will hire a consultant to work with a new Office of Minority Inclusion, and an advisory group to encourage MBEs to bid on City contracts.  The effort will also look at other communities, like Atlanta and Cleveland, to study their successes.

Cranley says he's not talking about "set-asides" or earmarks, but rather a way to encourage more companies to bid on City projects.  He says if more companies bid on a project, the more likely it is taxpayers will save money.

Vice Mayor David Mann says there is a connection between high levels of unemployment, and poor health, higher death rates, and higher crime among minority groups.  He says by helping minority-owned businesses, the community can help more people gain employment, and the entire city will benefit.