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Black business leaders bring policy proposals to City and County Commissions

Published: Oct. 15, 2020 at 6:38 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - In a push for economic equality, Black business leaders, the Big Bend Minority Chamber and the Capital City Chamber created 10 policies to present to local governments.

The 10 action items that were given to City Commissioner Elaine Bryant and Leon County Commissioner Nick Maddox would change the way some public dollars would be used. The policies were created after months of meetings by the group, taking direct input from local minority-owned businesses.

Leaders say many economic opportunities in the community come from the local governments; they want more dollars to go to minority-owned businesses.

Sean Pittman, with the Big Bend Minority Chamber, says it feels good to do something that hasn’t been done in Tallahassee before, putting together real policy positions that can be put into action.

He says they want to be intentional about dealing with issues that have always existed.

“We find that as it relates to how we deal with our minority population, we’re behind. In minority participation in government contracts, we’re behind. We’re behind in changing policies that still have systemic inequities just built up in it,” said Pittman. “The City and County can look at these ideas and somebody can make a motion based on just the idea as it’s presented.”

Many businesses have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, but minority-owned businesses have been disproportionately affected; Pittman says black businesses are closing at a ratio of two to one.

“Every disaster that comes to the community as a whole has a more difficult, harder impact on the black community, because of all the pre-existing things that are there,” said Pittman.

Antonio Jefferson, the President of the Big Bend Minority Chamber, says everyone succeeds when minority-owned businesses do well.

“As the tide rises all boats are lifted,” said Jefferson. “If we’re going to build and grow and create the capacity needed for these businesses, we’re gonna have to have that infusion of cash to make that a reality.”

“A lot of work has gone into the collaboration of many black businesses in our community to bring us to where we are today,” said Commissioner Elaine Bryant.

“Every time a business grows, our community takes a step forward,” said Commissioner Nick Maddox.

The full policy recommendations are listed below. The group is hoping the City and County Commissions will schedule workshops on the items.

  1. Develop and implement a required pre-bid training for Prime Contractors and Black-owned Businesses to promote joint ventures on contracts exceeding $2 million.
  2. Create a policy to break up large contracts for professional services to facilitate greater minority business participation.
  3. Require a report on Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) spending and participation at every City and County Commission meeting.
  4. Pass an ordinance that requires all city and county contracts to use a minimum of 25 percent minority participation subcontracting to certified minority-owned companies.
  5. In partnership with the BBMC, CCCC, and Florida A&M University Credit Union, use Blueprint or CARES Act funds to develop microgrants and loans program to lower the access to capital disparities that black-owned businesses face.
  6. Amend the purchasing card policy to require an annual minimum of 30% of the total dollars spent be to local black-owned businesses.
  7. Update the Disparity Study to include 2018-2019 spending availability and P-Card Purchases, to substantiate the increase in minority spending goal.
  8. Update the Disparity Study to substantiate Higher Aspirational Goals for MBE participation.
  9. Hire additional employees within the Office of Economic Vitality (OEV) to assist in Diversity Monitoring and Integrity Monitoring for all applicable city/county contracts, to ensure that all contractors are working with diverse vendors to meet or exceed aspirational goals.
  10. Hire a Consultant to serve as a Construction Integrity Monitor for all construction contracts. The monitor will work closely with OEV from the pre-bid stage throughout the life of the project to ensure that every effort to utilize MBE firms is met. The consultant will report directly to the commission.

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