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Black business owners, city leaders discuss proposals to close wealth gap in Big Bend area

Posted at 6:10 PM, Oct 15, 2020

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Black business leaders, leaders of the Big Bend Minority Chamber of Commerce, and the Capital City Chamber of Commerce gathered in front of City Hall on Thursday to deliver a set of 10 policy proposals derived from a town hall meeting co-hosted by the two chambers.

At the September 19 Moving Us Forward Town Hall event, the BBMC and the CCCC hosted black business leaders for a series of facilitated conversations and presentations to address the significant wealth gap existing in our community and the Big Bend area.

“It is no secret that we are struggling with significant economic inequality in our community and that inequality falls right along racial lines,” said Sean Pittman, the founder and chairman of the BBMC. “These proposals were born from the needs of black business leaders who recognize that it is the job of the government to make sure that everyone has a fair chance of success – regardless of the color of your skin, and we implore our leaders to solidify these proposals into policies quickly.”

As part of the event, black business leaders helped develop a list of policy proposals that can effectively close that wealth gap.

With local officials on hand for the event, those business leaders could talk directly with the elected body, who will be considering these changes. They are outlined below.

  1. Develop and implement a required pre-bid training for Prime Contractors and Black-owned Businesses to promote joint ventures on contracts exceeding $2 million.
  2. Create a policy to break up large contracts for professional services to facilitate greater minority business participation.
  3. Require a report on Minority Business Enterprise spending and participation at every City and County Commission meeting.
  4. Pass an ordinance that requires all city and county contracts to use a minimum of 25 percent minority participation subcontracting to certified minority-owned companies.
  5. In partnership with the BBMC, CCCC, and Florida A&M University Credit Union, use Blueprint or CARES Act funds to develop microgrants and loans program to lower the access to capital disparities that black-owned businesses face.
  6. Amend the purchasing card policy to require an annual minimum of 30 percent of the total dollars spent to be at local black-owned businesses.
  7. Update the Disparity Study to include 2018-2019 spending availability and P-Card Purchases to substantiate the increase in minority spending goals.
  8. Update the Disparity Study to substantiate Higher Aspirational Goals for MBE participation.
  9. Hire additional employees within the Office of Economic Vitality to assist in Diversity Monitoring and Integrity Monitoring for all applicable city/county contracts, to ensure that all contractors work with diverse vendors to meet or exceed aspirational goals.

10) Hire a Consultant to serve as a Construction Integrity Monitor for all construction contracts. The monitor will work closely with OEV from the pre-bid stage throughout the project's life to ensure that every effort to utilize MBE firms is met. The consultant will report directly to the commission.
Over the last three months, business leaders have been having regular conversations with Chamber leadership, and the September 19 Moving Us Forward Town Hall Meeting and subsequently the policy proposals above are the products of those conversations.