Minority report | Arkansas Blog

Friday, January 19, 2007

Minority report

Posted By on Fri, Jan 19, 2007 at 1:47 PM

David Koon dropped by the Little Rock Airport Commission today on the chance that some more discussion about the minority portion of the food services contract might come up. His report:

The airport commission agreed this morning to build a database of minority-owned and small businesses that could be called on for subcontracting work at the airport, with a long-term goal of mentoring and educating those firms on how to get licensed and certified to bid on bigger state and federal contracts.

Bob East, a commissioner and owner of East/Harding Construction, suggested that the Airport form the database, which could supply contacts for smaller firms for subcontracting jobs at the airport as they arise -- everything from janitorial to trucking. He also called for an outreach program that might include seminars for small and minority businesses on how to achieve certification for state and federal work.  East said that while most state and federal projects state goals for hiring minority businesses, those goals are rarely met. "The reason you don't make those goals is that there's no program like this with developmental capacity," East said. "There's no program that teaches [small and minority business owners], you've got to be a real company in order to bid on that $5 million dollar job."

East said that due to the lack of certified minority firms, construction companies end up going to the same companies again and again to meet their minority and small-business hiring goals. "To me, that's okay, but it doesn't build our capacity in the community," East said. "I want to get the guy with four dump trucks and get his name to the low bidder on the runway extension. We're not reaching a broad slice of minority owned businesses."

Commissioner Virgil Miller said that while he likes East's idea, he wants to make sure the program doesn't end up hiring a "white business with a black face."  "There has to be a process," Miller said. "If it's not the state's certification, then somebody's going to have to make sure we're not getting rookie-dooked."

East responded that while that kind of thing happens with million dollar contracts, the sub-conracts he is talking about would be small enough as to not attract that  form of fraud. "It's not big dollars we're talking about," East said. "It's the whole idea of outreach... of  sitting down and letting people know that it's not a closed, white guy system."

The commission agreed to explore the idea and to create an outline for how it could be accomplished within the next 30 days.

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