Black Firms Shut Out of Stimulus Projects

African Americans aren't getting fair share of funds

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contractor-exclusiveBlack contractors aren’t getting their fair share of the stimulus dollars being poured into transportation and infrastructure projects around the country, according to statistics released by the Transportation Equity Network.

Based on the grassroots organization’s findings as of Dec. 1, 2009, of the $163.8 million in contracts awarded directly to firms by the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration, $16.8 million went to minority-owned businesses, $9.7 million to women-owned businesses, $4.7 million to Hispanic-owned businesses and $0 to black-owned businesses. The group used data from the Federal Procurement Data System’s Federal Stimulus Contracting Report.

It is an admittedly small sampling of stimulus funding, said Transportation Equity Network executive director Laura Barrett, “But we think we see some trends around how the money has been allocated mostly to white-owned businesses. We feel that minority contractors are being left out based on anecdotal reports, and the numbers we were able to get from the procurement data system back up what we’ve been hearing from the field.”

The DOT disagrees. The agency contends that the data pool used by TEN is too small to be considered representative. In an e-mail message, DOT spokesperson Olivia Alair said that as of Dec. 11, 2009, $986 million dollars in stimulus funds have been committed to Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs) for highway projects and that the agency has awarded $32 million to minority-owned firms in direct federal contracts. She could not say, however, how many of them are black.

“Minority-owned firms have to be certified at the state level to qualify as DBEs, so we do not have national data on the percentage of DBEs that are minority-owned, broken out by race or ethnicity,” wrote Alair.

She noted that DOT has engaged in and encouraged extensive outreach to black firms. The agency has launched bonding assistance and short-term lending programs and has participated in several events that target women and minorities to highlight stimulus opportunities. In addition, in December Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood sent a letter to the nation’s 50 governors urging them to “take advantage of existing equal opportunity programs and resources and to create innovative strategies to provide opportunities for the underrepresented.”

Richard Copeland, president and CEO of THOR Construction Inc. in Minneapolis (No. 48 on the BE100s Industrial/Service Companies list with $103 million in revenues) and past president of the National Association of Minority Contractors said that efforts to include black firms in stimulus projects vary from state to state and that discriminatory practices continue to be pervasive. He believes that there needs to be a national mandate regarding inclusion to ensure that all states meet their numeric goals and sanctions when they don’t.

“We’re being bypassed by a ‘good old boy’ network that’s gobbling up the stimulus money that’s supposed to help the neediest and most fragile businesses,” said Copeland. “Black contractors are going out of business and laying off people at an alarming rate.”

Copeland, Barrett, and several organizations affiliated with TEN plan to drive that message home during a briefing with lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Jan. 27.

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  • Proud

    When I keep seeing things like this and the President’s avoidance of race, I’m sorry to say I feel that he will be a one term President.

  • Tee

    President Obama does not have the benefit of a “good ol’ boy”/cronie network. He is on his own, he is not protected like “Prince Georgie” was. The content of this article does not surprise me. He really does not have the power to funnel money to African-American businesses. Let’s not forget that his black half is Continental African, not African American (different school of thought). He wants to be liked by everyone, but even those “good ol’ boys” who are benefitting from the stimulus money still hate him.

  • That is very sad.

    I opened a store in Cincinnati but never got any support so I had to shot down and move to Chicago.

    It is cold and rough right now but I believe The African Store will be among the few black businesses to make it out of this recession, with or without stimulus money.

    When you are not given, give yourself.


    David Okafor

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  • fredyt3 t

    Look – here it is 2010 and the same BS prevails. President Obama can’t and won’t save us!!!!!!!! We’ve got plenty of elected officials who appropriate the contracts to these thugs. We put them in office and it is them we must target because as the article points us – the only one’s benefiting are their croonies/supporters and the same ole network, when they look right into the communities they claim to have wanted to serve – yet they try and point the finger elsewhere. Who is approving the money???? It’s local so change the focus, as with all the folk we have in office you would think there are plenty of contracts to go around, which if done right, would employ a whole lot of our folk plus more….

  • Professor Nat T

    Take one look at President Obama’s inner circle and you see an elite Good-Old-Boy Network. Harvard, Yale and Columbia Ivory White, cabinet level administrators that have President Barack Obama’s ear. Obama’s inner circle only know about the “historically disadvantaged and disenfranchised” when passing through the “hood” on their way to the Hamptons. The bottom line is President Obama like many 21st century, layered black elected officials works hard not to be preceived as being too black. Thus, he has taken off his progressive black layer and what is showing by his lack of supporting a “Black Agenda” is the cream between the layers that is acceptable to what he preceives as America’s “Main Stream”…. translated white folks who are in control of the power and thus the political sysem. The Associated General Contractors/KKK is the parent company of the U.S. Department of Transportation and they are adamantly against any kind of “equity program” that threatens their white only cronie, corrupt-capitalism that is being propagated as a free market based system. The next time you hear some delusional person Black or White utter the non-sense about “the lowest bidder” or “selecting the most qualified”, asked them who engineered and constructed Boston’s Big Dig Tunnel? Minnesota’s I-35H Bridge that collapsed? The military bases in Iraq where 30 soldiers were electrocuted due to KBR Halliburton’s shoddy electrical wiring of military housing and the 3.2 billion dollars in cost overruns in street, road, highway and water system projects that occur annually due to incompetent engineering and shoddy construction.