Business Exchange: Are Blacks Losing Momentum?

Business Exchange: Are Blacks Losing Momentum?
Atlanta is still home to some of America’s largest Black-owned businesses

AFRICANGLOBE – Blacks made significant strides in legislation and economics over the past 40 years. Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, Georgia are prime examples of Blacks’ successes circa 1970s, ’80s and 90s. The cities were seats of power in government and politics. Black mayors and legislators in these cities spawn the nation’s two wealthiest majority-Black counties.

Mayors Marion Barry and Maynard Jackson made Black lives and opportunities better in D.C. and “Hotlanta” [Atlanta, Ga.] with their “consciousness of” and “adherence to” equal government employment and contracting through significant minority “set aside” programs. Black-led governments in D.C. and Atlanta played prime roles in the economic evolution of Prince George’s County, Maryland and DeKalb County, Georgia. But while Blacks in both metropolitan areas basked in their prosperity and cosmopolitan shopping habits, Blacks in the core cities lost their political majorities to become “victims” of mainstream and “colorblind”-oriented politicians.

As Blacks with mainstream orientations paid scant attention, not only the complexion of Washington government changed, but so have its mindset and priorities, as well. Now that Black people are no longer the “prime players” in town, the perils of “multi-culturalism” are upon us. It’s time Blacks take heed that the current crop of city officials have no priority to ensure that equitable monies from District contracts end up in the hands of qualified Black and minority businesses. Surely Blacks in D.C. have to “wake up”! Wider support is needed toward persuading the City Council legislative body to adhere to the integrity and intent of the 35 percent set aside rule and procedure on the Department of Corrections’ contract, and all D.C. contracts.

The case in point is for the health and care of the District of Columbia’s overwhelmingly-Black inmate population. The District’s Office of Contracting and Procurement has recommended awarding the three-year, $66 million contract to provide medical, mental health, pharmacy and dental services to inmates to Corizon Health Inc. For purposes of securing the local contract, Corizon which has operations in many jurisdictions, has partnered with a local certified business firm, MBI Health Services. MBI Health Services, LLC is a D.C.-based Certified Business Enterprise (CBE) healthcare provider with a payroll of over 500 personnel.

To maintain the impetus they’ve had, D.C. Blacks should level scrutiny on this specific contract. Because the D.C. Council appears bent on withholding the ability of managing care of inmates at Washington’s Central Detention Facility and Correctional Treatment Facility from Corizon/MBI, some are raising spurious arguments regarding lawsuits against Corizon at other state prisons.

The overall economics of local citizens would bode well if groups like the National Business League of Greater Washington (NBLGW) had their way. NBLGW has sounded an alarm that despite being chosen by the mayor and D.C. procurement officials and their staff, the Council may “override” their contracting recommendations and obligations. Despite no promise on their part to involve local minorities, some council members seek to keep the city contract with Unity Heath Care and would provide a “waiver” that keeps Unity. Such a move would illustrate hubris run amok and wrought negative consequences on Blacks’ economic development and wealth-building.

It’s vital that local citizens demand that Corizon/MBI be given their “just due” toward providing health care at the D.C. Department of Corrections; and that set aside rules be adhered to, and Certified Business Enterprises (CBEs), which are often predominantly Black and disadvantaged, receive preference over non-profit organizations on city contracts. A Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) is a business or institution initiated or operated for the purpose of making a profit. It is at least 51 percent owned, operated and controlled on a daily basis by ethnic minorities. A nonprofit organization (NPO), also known as a non-business entity is an organization that uses its surplus revenues to further achieve its purpose or mission, rather than distributing its surplus income to the organization’s directors (or equivalents) as profit or dividends. Let’s retain some semblances of the days local Blacks were sought out as partners, and make sure city contracting funds go to local qualified businesses.

 

By: William Reed

Mr. Reed is publisher of “Who’s Who in Black Corporate America” and available for projects via [email protected]