Grow black constructors

For centuries, the trade of the minority community, specifically black men and the ability to earn an income, was through construction, carpentry, masonry, concrete and plumbing. Yet they were kept out of jobs unless they worked as a subcontractor.

Under Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson’s administration, change began. He put in place local law that required 30 percent participation on all airport contracts as well as major city projects. That law enabled several black small firms to grow and become major construction firms.

On April 16, the Georgia Department of Transportation voted to approve a formal resolution to increase efforts of GDOT to include Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs) in contracts funded by revenue from passage of House Bill 170. The DBE resolution pledges to apply the principles of a 2012 disparity study to state funding. The matter-of-fact disposition of the resolution does not accurately portray the maneuvering it took to get it before the GDOT.

Advocates for disadvantaged business enterprises realize the resolution does not carry the weight of legislation, but it is the best indication of a willingness to level the playing field in state contracting since former Gov. Zell Miller was in office. Twenty-three years ago, he signed an executive order that set up a registry of state contracts (Georgia Procurement Registry: ), making it easier for firms, including DBEs, to find out what business the state was doing.

Participation of disadvantaged businesses is not merely aimed at enriching a few relatively well-off minority business people. Empowering these small businesses is a way to create jobs where they are needed the most.

The purpose the Georgia Black Constructors’ Association is to:

  • Provide a vehicle of support for black construction professionals.
  • Advocate for the utilization of black-owned and operated construction firms by all sectors, private and public.
  • Provide encouragement, education, and support for blacks interested in construction industry careers.

The Georgia Black Constructors Association has been working with many organizations to ensure inclusion of minority participation in Georgia’s construction industry. We fought for adoption of the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. Yet we still lag behind on construction benefits through SPLOST.

Inclusion advocates are the first to admit a lot more is left to do, but take the pragmatic view that politics is the art of the possible. Tea Party reluctance to support any revenue enhancements gave Democrats a rare opportunity to influence the shape and tenor of House Bill 170. Future efforts will include recruiting more highly qualified, diverse firms and encouraging them to get certified, pre-qualified and bid. Goals must be set on state (as opposed to federal) funds. Relationships must be built with the major players in the highway construction industry to ensure the growth of black constructors.