The Data is coming in and a Change is going to Come

The two Obama Administrations were bankrupt on Black business development.  Just about all the federal agencies were immersed in scandal.  Integrity was hard to find.  The Veterans Administration, IRS, State Department just to name a few. The subject of minority business was a dicey topic.  The biggest lie was that they didn’t keep records on Black business participation.  When Hurricane Katrina came during the Bush Administration my office would get weekly reports on how much Black business was being done during the rebuilding.  When Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey, FEMA surprisingly told me that they didn’t keep those numbers.  It was an outright lie but they didn’t want to report the truth – there was an absence of Black business participation.

It is refreshing to see the Trump Administration is frank and honest about the ongoing performance.  The Inspector General reports are starting to come in regarding the last few fiscal years and it is shocking.  The HUD IG report states that Section 3 of the HUD Act which is a job training program for people living under the poverty level was not enforced.  Hundreds of thousands of public housing residents were missing an opportunity to get into the workforce.  I sent this news to the Trump Administration and almost immediately new HUD Secretary Ben Carson is publicly on the case to make Section 3 compliance a reality.  What a difference a commitment makes.  Under Obama we had an aura of deceit.  Under Trump there is frankness and honesty.  Don’t get mad at me!  The truth is the truth.

Recently, the IG report for the Federal Aviation Authority, FAA, has been released.  It is very disappointing.  There was an audit of the 65 largest airports in the nation.  FAA like other components of the US Department of Transportation uses a minority and women program known as the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program – DBE. The period of study was fiscal years 2012, 2013 and 2014.  There are two types of DBE’s.  One group is construction and engineering for the upkeep and expansion of the airport runway and building facilities.  The other group is tenants providing retail activities in the terminals such as restaurants, clothing stores, jewelry, etc.

Of the 65 airports, there was no collective increase in DBE firms doing business in construction and engineering.  In fact, there was a reduction of 37 over the three designated years.  Many of the major airports such as Los Angeles, Detroit, Denver, Dallas, and many others had no new DBE’s certified and actively working.  Nationally, there was a total of only 11 new firms certified by the 65 airports.  In terms of tenants having concessions in the terminals there was a total decrease of 37 firms.

In terms of the contracts or leases signed by DBE’s for all 65 airports there was a decrease of 36%. The airports could not deliver any rational excuse for the significant reduction in contract and leasing activity.  In sum, there seems to be an end to any improvement in minority and women owned business activity at our airports.  It is as if the federal government told our airports to not worry any longer about DBE participation.  They don’t even try to find new DBE’s to participate at our airports.  Many of the few who apply for DBE certification must wait more than 90 days to receive their status.  After that very little happens in the way of contract or leasing opportunities.

It wasn’t like this when the NBCC started monitoring our airports in 1995.  The decline is related to the years of the Obama Administration just like the other federal agencies.  We are going to create a database for the 65 airports and track their progress.  Those that don’t improve their advocacy and contracting will be noted via civil rights complaints (Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964).  It appears that some of our chapters will be quite busy getting the doors open for their members.  There is a big job ahead and we are going to be the organization that understands the issue and will improve the dismal situation.

Right now, we have a business oriented President and that should be taken advantage of.  He understands our issues and knows how to correct problems.  It would be a shame if we miss this opportunity.  Some of us will fail by way of excluding the opportunity that exists.  You don’t have to love him – just do business with him and his administration.  When the contracts/money start coming in your mind will suddenly change its ways.

Mr. Alford is the co-founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce®.  Website: www.nationalbcc.org  Email:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

DATED:  April 25, 2017   

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