In response to the recent News article, "Looking for a niche," it appears the primary culprit in the strained relations between the minority business community and Western New York's private and public sector economic development movement is a massive breakdown in communication.
In any consistently conflicted relationship, the fault rarely lies solely with one party, and so it is in this case.
With an eye on resolution, I offer this two-part solution:
First, all parties must make a firm commitment to open and honest communication. Representatives must come to the table ready to participate in genuine dialogue, which demands a willingness to engage in honest self-criticism, to accept responsibility for past errors, to put the past aside and to actively participate in creating a healthy growth-oriented environment.
Second, take the focus off of compliance, and place it on development. Anyone with experience in the construction industry has knowledge of the rampant abuse, on both sides, of the Woman and Minority Owned Business Enterprise (W/MBE) and minority utilizations programs.
General and prime specialty contractors working on publicly funded construction contracts are required to subcontract a certain percentage of work to W/MBE companies. Unfortunately, there are a limited number of viable minority firms in the area, and these goals are enforced regardless of whether the scope of a particular contract lends itself to the use of subcontractors.
Contractors are forced to fill quotas any way they can. Standing ready are "pass-throughs," companies that accept a service fee to do nothing more than put a W or MBE name on work that is actually performed elsewhere. The result: Everybody loses.
The business community is confronted with a view of its minority component as incapable of providing real products and services, which only serves to perpetuate the very stereotype we are looking to eradicate, there is a negative impact on minority business development as companies continue to function in name only and the taxpayer pays the bill.
I challenge all stakeholders in our economic future to throw out this inherently flawed system. How can we effectively redirect the time, energy and money spent on forced compliance into the real development of minority businesses?
In today's highly competitive market, price and performance are king. The company that adds the greatest value will win, regardless of race or gender.
Partner, Infinity Architectural