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The Detroit News

Saturday, March 31, 2001   (0 Comments)
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For details regarding any release posted here, feel free to contact Nancy Hale Brown, communications director, at 517-347-8336.

The matter of minority set-aside contracts in most of our stateâs urban areas has been in debate for years. Numerous federal court decisions have been handed down across the country that have defined the requirements and the proven need for such programs. Most of these decisions require local units of government to ãnarrowly tailorä minority set-aside programs to address proven past discrimination.

Setting aside the issue of past discrimination, the apparent problem with these programs rests with their implementation. Specifically, non-minority contractors are required to assume the role of social scientists by ãseeking outä who may or may not be capable of performing the work at hand. In addition, failure to meet a quota or goal could result in a non-minority contractor being declared non-awardable.

Recent articles in this paper seem to suggest that Wayne County is falling short relative to the goal of 30 percent minority participation in country contracts. If this is accurate, then it is up to the county to address the problem rather than shifting this burden to non-minority contractors.

During the past few years the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) addressed many of the same concerns regarding the mandated federal disadvantaged business enterprise (DBE) program. The study resulted in numerous modifications to the program. For example, the established goal of DBE participation in each state is flexible and must be based on proof of ãready, willing and ableä DBEâs. A simple goal calculation based on population is considered to be insufficient. Once the state (not the contractor) has made this goal determination, each DBE must be pre-qualified, i.e.: it must be established how much work in terms of dollar value a DBE is capable of performing.

In order to lend legitimacy and effectiveness to the minority set-aside program, Wayne County and others must take an active role in determining the available pool of ãready, willing and ableä minority contractors. An inordinate amount of minorities in one trade, such as home building, should reduce the goal for major sewer construction, for example. In other words, goals must be adjusted to fit availability in certain construction disciplines.

Lastly, it is the county as job to address the problems of minority contractors including training, surety bonds, businesses classes, etc., and provide the needed resources for minorities to enter the business world. Simply shifting this burden to private enterprise is not the solution.

Bob Patzer Executive Director AUC - Michigan's Heavy Construction Association

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