VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WVEC) -- It was a unanimous decision from city council to take another step forward with a disparity study after backlash from community leaders.

NFL great Bruce Smith sparked the conversation after claiming the city didn't present an equal playing field for women and minority business owners in Virginia Beach.

"This sends a signal that the city is open for business for everyone and that's an important issue," said Gary McCollum with the Interdenominational Ministers Conference. He also helped lead a march at the oceanfront that called for an end to the alleged discrimination.

He was there Tuesday night when city council voted to fund a $424,000 study. BBC Research and Consulting from Denver was chosen to do it.

"We're pretty happy. Now, we need to watch the next 12 to 14 months," said McCollum.

The unopposed decision to move forward comes with hopes that the study will help the city improve.

"I think we're going to get the facts in just a year from now and we'll look at what recommendations we do and we're an inclusive community," said Councilman John Moss.

"As we go forward with this study, we obviously can learn a lot in improving what is going on," Councilman Robert Dyer said during a work session Tuesday night.

Just because the study is moving forward, McCollum said their work isn't done. They'll be there every step of the way and help where they can.

"We're assuming that as this process unfolds the next 12 to 14 months, we may be asked for insight," he said.