By Starla Vaughns Cherin
The Florida State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, (NAACP), launches Diversity Matters. A statewide survey of small and minority business spending, employment, advertising and marketing in private industry, school districts, city and county government. The survey sent earlier this month is due Saturday, Nov.1, 2014.
The survey asks about total dollars spent with small and minority businesses and what percentage is spent with African American, Hispanic American, Asian American, Native American, Veterans and Women for fiscal year 2013-2014. It also asks about employment diversity and the dollar amount and percentages spent on advertising and marketing aimed at minorities, veterans and women.
Statewide the NAACP Diversity Matters survey went to four private corporations AutoNation, Ryder, Disney and the Seminole Tribe of Florida as well as 10 municipalities including City of Miami, nine county governments including Broward and eight school districts including Broward.
“We haven’t had a disparity study statewide since 1999. We hope to get a microcosm of diversity in the state of Florida. The questionnaire asks the specifics so when finished we will have the real deal on diversity,” said Adora Obi Nweze, president of NAACP Florida State Conference and Miami Dade NAACP.
“It is not a do all be all and it depends on the results. I am not making any presumptions and we want to be fair. The ultimate goal is to improve business and job accessibility for the entire community as opposed to just a few. All the money should not go into one pocket. In terms of contracts, employment and advertising what percentage of those contracts are falling to Black, Asian, Hispanic contractors?”
“The method we are hoping for is to follow up with the city, county, school district or private enterprise and that they will want to do better. Tax payer dollars are being used and we don’t have access to it on a working basis. Those who are not there poised to participate should have access to training to enable them to participate.
“If not, the community will have the information and facts to pressure them to do better. Look guys you are not hiring us or doing business with us. We want enough of these jobs and business opportunities to build our communities and families,” says Nweze.
Reverse discrimination lawsuit won by the Associated General Contractors of America against Broward County in 2007 alleged discrimination against white males and violation of the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection guarantees and federal civil rights laws. Cities and counties all over Florida began dismantling programs to ensure minority-owned contractors get a share of government contracts.
The construction industry won lawsuits against the State of Florida and Miami Dade County. Palm Beach County dropped its minority business program in 2003.
At the time many of the pro-grams formed for minority business inclusion, employment and academic equal opportunity were called set asides and the dismantling carried through from the general assault gaining on the dirty words affirmative action. No longer would inclusion be based on race to remedy historical exclusion.
Studies 2001 in Broward County found gross disparities throughout the 1990s. A 2005 follow-up review by county equal opportunity officials found some progress but said contractors exaggerated how much work they subcontracted to minority- and women-owned firms. Although Port Everglades and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport are home to some of the most lucrative contracts, they did the poorest at the time of ensuring diversity.
Florida Department of Management Services, Office of Supplier Diversity, (OSD) re-quires by statute state agencies and colleges provide an annual Minority Business Utilization Plans. “In fiscal year 2012-13, the state’s total government expenditures for commodities, construction, contractual services, architects and engineers surpassed $73.2 billion. Of these amounts one percent was spent for architect and engineering related services, ten percent for construction related purchases, 12 percent for contract related services and 77 percent for commodities purchases.”
The OSD annual report gives numbers on the amount of minority business certifications and re-certifications. The total number of minority businesses certified in 2013-2014 is 5,742 encompassing 311 Service Disabled Veterans, 272 Asian American, 949 African American, 1,233 Hispanic American and 2,911 Caucasian Women Owned enterprises.
The problem in the report is although it reports aggregate dollars spent by each state agency there is no determination of the percentages or dollar amounts spent with each minority listed.
The NAACP Diversity Initiative Survey asks the questions what percentage and amount of dollars were spent in each minority category.
“The Diversity Matters Initiative questionnaire is very straight forward,” says Torey Alston, NAACP State Chair of Economic Development. “There are simple questions regarding small and minority business spending, advertising and employment. Of your total spend for media advertising, give me the minority portion. How much did you spend with each minority? Break it down by each category. Employment diversity, how many employed for the year? Of that total how many minorities employed. It’s public record. This information should be readily available to the general public and this is a friendly public information request.”
Cheryl Seals Gonzalez, Chair of the Florida Advisory Council for Small and Minority Business Development, a policy recommending advisory group that assists small minority business by reviewing the state’s comprehensive plan, capital access issues and trends, who has access to the market place, contracts and procurement? “Procurement is where the action is,” says, Gonzalez. “We are working towards a services and business inclusion paradigm.”
“Governor Rick Scott’s executive order states diversity including supply and diversity is important to the state. We see concerted efforts exist in some areas but not in others. There needs to be an established climate that no business is being left behind in terms of contracts. We have instruments and laws passed but there is still work to be done.”
Small business owner George Burrows founded Burrows Electric in 1948 and now manages it with his youngest daughter Sonya. Despite its longevity, expertise and prime service commodity Sonya says her company has not bid on government contracts in the last 10 years.
“When you work as a sub-contractor or prime contractor for government contracts you must be able to finance the job at least a 3rd of the way through. Most small businesses do not have the cash flow to carry these jobs. They must pay for labor, materials and insurance before the government contract monies come through. Many are not able to pay out these amounts while keeping their businesses running at full capacity.
“When it comes to minority and small business they tend to think they are not credit worthy and do not meet the threshold and take the stance I’ll check back with you in another five years to see how you are doing. They have not been in business long enough, not hiring enough, not enough money but when they incorporated we counted them in our minority business numbers in the beginning, then why can’t we help. They are not being funded which would help those business in creating new jobs.
“Dismissive. The powers that be would say you are not ready for the big league. You may be the best architect in the world but they will say you are not eligible to design a stadium be-cause you never did it before. Someone was given a chance to do it for the first time. When you are not ready you are wiping out the minority, systemically discriminating against minority business.”
March 2014 the Florida Senate passed the Florida Microfinance Act. The microfinance loan program and the microfinance guarantee program increase the availability of microloans by making the loans more attractive to originate, thus increasing the availability of loans to small businesses to grow their operations. Eligibility is limited to borrowers who are entrepreneurs or small businesses with 25 or fewer employees and revenue up to $1.5 million per year.
“Under the microfinance loan program, the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) will competitively award funds to up to three lending institutions that in turn will make loans of $50,000 or less to Florida small businesses or entrepreneurs that generate annual gross revenues averaging no more than $1,500,000 per year for the last two years. At least one dollar of that lender’s funds must be at risk for every dollar of state funds committed.”
“The Micro Finance bill and Enterprise Florida’s newly established bonding program is a long way from zero,” Gonzalez says, “but when you look at requirements and what has to be done you ask is it really going to be helpful? We need to make it attractive to lenders and add more inclusion to help businesses that need it.”