Sunday, March 8, 2009

Round 3 Hampton, VA: Minority contractors faring worse since Hampton disparity study in 2006

Earlier articles:

Minority contractors faring worse since Hampton disparity study in 2006
By Matthew Sturdevant 247-7874
March 8, 2009

HAMPTON - — Minority-owned businesses have received a smaller and smaller percentage of city contracts in recent years, even after a report was released in January 2006 with recommendations on how to even out the disparity.

Hampton hired a consultant five years ago to analyze trends in city purchasing and procurement during the four-year period between fiscal years 1999 and 2003. The report revealed that Hampton's spending of taxpayer funds mostly left out minority-owned and women-owned businesses, which were a small fraction of companies available to do business.

For example, black-owned construction companies accounted for 4.38 percent of all prime contractors in the area, and received 1.05 percent of Hampton's construction spending for prime contractors during the four-year period.

Since the report came out, minority-owned businesses have fared worse, not better.

The percentage of Hampton's spending with minority-owned businesses decreased each year since fiscal year 2006. Businesses owned by blacks, Hispanics, Asian-Americans and other minorities received 1.63 percent of Hampton's spending in fiscal year 2008, which ended June 30. The city's record of spending with women-owned businesses fluctuated in recent years — as low as 1.11 percent in fiscal year 2005 and as high as 3.89 percent in 2007.

Even though the numbers reflect an under-representation of minorities and women, few of the business leaders who were interviewed for the disparity study — 6 percent of those surveyed — believed that discrimination was a factor.

Hampton's record of doing business with minority- and women-owned companies was better than the commonwealth of Virginia's by most measures, according to the disparity study. However, Hampton trailed in most categories behind other cities it was compared to in the study, including Charlotte, N.C.; Tallahassee, Fla.; Orange County, Fla.; and Columbia, S.C.

Sometime soon, likely in April, the City Council will hear a new round of recommendations from Jessica R. Spencer, the Economic Development Department's minority business coordinator, and from the Finance Department's procurement office.

Spencer is relatively new to the job. She was hired last year. She has 14 years experience and was director of the Business Opportunity Workforce Development Center for the Virginia Department of Transportation.

What aren't new are Hampton's efforts to improve representation by minority- and women-owned businesses. The city has had a Small and Minority Business Loan program since 1986 and a nondiscrimination ordinance since 1991.

The disparity report that came out a few years ago commended the city for having programs that make loan money available for small businesses and businesses owned by woman or minorities. The report also commended Hampton for "providing management and technical assistance through its support for local (business) incubators."

Hampton's efforts to help build minority businesses have had some success. Recently, the Economic Development Department welcomed three businesses owned by minority women: Java Junkies coffee shop at 768 Settlers Landing Road in downtown; KingsWay Physical Therapy at 208 Fox Hill Road, Suite B; and Soapalooza, a homemade soap shop at 3411 Old Armistead Ave.

The city also faces challenges in improving its record with minority businesses, which Spencer will explain in detail during a City Council workshop.

The real problem is the people who implement city policy, said Rudy Langford, president of the Coalition for Justice for Civil Rights, about the contract percentages.

"It's favoritism ... recommendations ain't worth a dime," he said.

On the other hand, former Councilman Charles Sapp, who is director of management services at REMSA, a minority woman-owned firm in Hampton, said he believes the low number of city contracts that go to minority- and women-owned businesses is not discrimination, but a problem with the city's process of soliciting bids and development proposals.

"That's an area we need to investigate — the processes and policies which raise barriers to small business," Sapp said.,0,2464279.story


Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Anonymous said...

we love your blog postings, so well add your rss or news feed for them, Thanks and please post us and leave a comment back and well link to you. Thanks Jen , Blog Manager, business loans

Subject: *
Your Name: *
E-mail Address: *
Message: *

* Required