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Black firms shutout of miami-dade public schools construction contracts

M-D School’s disparity study confirm Black business neglect

12/17/2013, 1:24 p.m.
D.C. Clark

With billions being spent over the next several years in the construction and/or renovation of Miami-Dade County Public Schools [M-DCPS], the School Board was recently commissioned to conduct an in-depth analysis of the District’s purchasing and contracting practices to determine if racial or gender disparity

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D.C. Clark

existed among those firms doing business with M-DCPS. And what was determined by MGT of America, Inc. is what many critics have been saying all along — that disparity exists in three-of-four categories. According to two M-DCPS employees, Brian Williams, economic development officer, Office of Economic Development and Jaime Torrens, chief facilities officer, Office of School Facilities, based on data reviewed over the period from July 2006 through June 2012, disparity was shown in construction contracting at the prime level and at both prime and sub-consultant levels for architectural/engineering services.

“However, the District’s practice of promoting M/WBE [minority/women business enterprises] at the construction sub-contractor level resulted in a utilization rate which closely aligns to the racial demographics of Miami-Dade County,” they said. “For the period between July 2008 and June 2012, the rate of Black participation in subcontracting ranged between 18.5 and 27.2 percent — a marked increase from July 2006 through June 2008 when the average rate was 10.1 percent.”

“The informal program we had for M/WBE inclusion contributed to our success rate and our argument is that we must continue that program in order to avoid regression,” they said. “That’s going to be our stance. In fact,we intend on creating M/WBE programs that cover all four areas covered in the report. What we are seeing, like with two of our largest and recently-commissioned projects, Mast and Miami Norland, is that when we raise the desired participation goals to include women and local hiring, we’re seeing more of them get contracts. Of course companies still have to put in a proposal and become pre-qualified but the Office of Economic Development can help with that. We’re going out doing workshops on a regular basis and are also willing to show people how to become vendors.”

ACCURATE numbers?

Ron Frazier, vice chair of the Small Business Enterprise Committee for M-DCPS, says he is satisfied with the three areas found to have disparities and believes that the subcontracting area needs further investigation.

“I support the Superintendent’s position of reinstating the M/WBE policy and program with race- and gender-based goals that can withstand legal challenges,” Frazier said. “If he continues to put M/WBE goals on upcoming projects, similar to the Norland High School project, I support his effort. Miami-Dade County is a multi-cultural environment which is too often not inclusive of all minority groups and can be exclusionary and divisive. The primary goal and objective for the Black community is to remain focused on end products so that the M/WBE Program can be achieved. Second, the final outcome of this study will affect business and economic opportunity for minority businesses, especially Blacks, for a long time to come. Therefore the Black community needs to come together and focus its energy and power to ensure that the proper framework and rules of engagement is correct, the factual data in the study is accurate and the final recommendations can withstand legal challenges.