Thursday, April 13, 2000

County votes to boost minority role in new Reds ballpark

BY Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Commissioners approved changes to Hamilton County's Small Business Program on Wednesday that they hope will lead more minority- and women-owned businesses to lend a hand in the construction of the Reds ballpark.

        The county set a goal of having 15 percent of the contracts for Paul Brown Stadium awarded to businesses owned by minorities or women. It fell well short of the goal, with a participation rate of just 11 percent of the $285 million in contracts.

        That led to Wednesday's changes, which include:

        „Small businesses that provide raw materials or supplies will count toward the goal.

        „Requesting proposals from companies able to provide a com munity outreach program to attract small businesses.

        „Having contractors fill out “stronger language” forms, which will ask them to document their “good faith effort” to give subcontracting work to minority- and women-owned business.

        Critics say the changes to the county's Small Business Program do not go far enough.

        Kathye Lewis, board chairwoman of the African American Cham ber of Commerce, said the county's policy still has no teeth to force companies to work with smaller businesses. She said good-faith efforts haven't worked.


        “It just doesn't go far enough,” Ms. Lewis said. “Until they require businesses to work with us, it will be left to good-faith efforts.

        “They didn't do much for us on Paul Brown Stadium. The good-faith effort was already in place for that project, and the county didn't meet its goals.”

        Stan Williams, who heads the county's program, said that while the overall goal is 15 percent participation, there will be individual goals for each contract awarded.

        Mr. Williams said the forms asking contractors to track their efforts at recruiting small business subcontractors is the most Ohio law will allow them to do.

        Another concern is that the definition of what a small business is has not changed. The county is using the standard of the Small Business Administration. For construction firms, average annual receipts can be as much as $17 million.

        That's too high, Ms. Lewis said. “The current rules won't allow them to get in the door.”

        Mr. Williams said the county will be looking at those issues. “That's a valid concern,” he said.


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