Tuesday, March 20, 2001

Few minority bids on ballpark

County hopes to increase participation

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Politicians promised the African-American community that 15 percent of the work in building Great American Ball Park would go to minority-owned businesses when a sales tax increase was placed before Hamilton County voters in 1996.

        So far, the county has delivered 3.5 percent — $2.8 million — of the nearly $81 million in contracts handed out so far on the $280 million project.

        Women-owned business have fared even worse, getting 1.8 percent of the work with $1.5 million in contracts. Overall, small-business participation on the project has been limited to 12 percent, or $9.3 million.

        “Nobody is pleased with the numbers,” Hamilton County Commissioner Tom Neyer said.

        Those numbers have led construction managers to revise their program to recruit small businesses and firms owned by minorities and women.

        “We are disappointed with the participation,” project manager Arnie Rosenberg told county commissioners Monday.

        So is the minority community. Black leaders met with construction managers Monday to try to find ways to get the percentages up.

        Jim Curry, interim executive director of the African American Chamber of Commerce, said he was pleased with the meeting. He said he remains “cautiously opti mistic” that the numbers will rise.

        “Needless to say, those numbers are absolutely pathetic,” Mr. Curry said. “With a 50 percent minority population in the city, that participation is terrible.

        “If it's going to be the Great American Ball Park, let's make it that. Let's make it a good situation for the city, instead of looking like we're stuck in the 1930s.”

        Construction managers on Monday outlined seven changes to the small-business program that they hope will increase participation by small and minority-owned businesses. Among them:

        • Making sure prime contractors pay their subcontractors within the 10 days alloted by law. The county will begin auditing payments to make sure they are made promptly.

        • Encouraging primary con tractors to offer assistance to small businesses in getting bonding, lines of credit or insurance.

        • Strengthening the documentation required of primary contractors, requiring them to prove they made a good-faith effort to include small, minority- and women-owned businesses.

        • Requiring primary contractors to make design plans available to all subcontractors.

        Commissioner Todd Portune said the program has to be revised quickly because several large bid packages will be opened in two weeks.

        “After that, it's basically done,” Mr. Portune said. “Everything outlined here today is positive change. But it's evident to me that we need more help.”


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