GREENSBORO, N.C. — The Greensboro City Council and a Guilford County Schools committee both considered ways to give more work to women and minority owned businesses at separate meetings Tuesday.
At issue, a major disparity between the number of contracts awarded to businesses owned by whites and those owned by women and minorities.
The North Carolina Office for Historically Underutilized Businesses (NC HUB) found that Guilford County Schools spent more than $24 million in purchasing from April 1 to June 30.
Of that $24 million plus, more than 85 percent went to white-owned businesses. 12.27 percent went to woman-owned businesses, 1.75 percent went to businesses owned by African-Americans, and none went to businesses owned by Hispanics, Asians, or native Americans.
An independent consultant’s report to the City of Greensboro found a similar disparity with City-awarded contracts between 2005 and 2010, when just $9 million of $329 million went to woman or minority owned businesses.
Ed McKeever, who is black and owns EMC Builders, says contractors are unaware that the City has rules regarding minority contractors because they’re not enforced. Even worse, McKeever said the rules are circumvented.
“The numbers are shopped. There’s a bid, and the black contractor sends his numbers in, and the white contractor calls up a buddy and finds out what the bid is, then he brings his numbers down a bit,” McKeever explained. “It’s rigged. It’s shopped.”
McKeever did not name a specific incident where he believed this had happened.
Chief among the concerns for the minority and women business owners at Tuesday’s meetings were access to projects available for bid and a feeling of fairness during the bid process.
At a work session, a steering committee and the City of Greensboro staff suggested a plan to council that included a full-time administrator to make business owners aware of projects and oversee the bid process as well as a rotating contractor pool so the City doesn’t use the same contractors over and over.
The suggestions will go before the Greensboro City Council on October 15.