Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Minority-owned companies to get more Metro contracts

An effort to level the playing field for minority- and female-owned businesses competing for Metro government contracts became law Tuesday with a unanimous vote by the Metro Council. The law, supported by Mayor Karl Dean, will overhaul the way companies compete for city business and how such contracts are awarded. It follows research that showed more than 92 percent of the city's construction work from 1999 to 2003 was awarded to companies owned by white men. "It's a great thing for our city," said Darrell Freeman, chairman and CEO of information technology consulting firm Zycron Inc. and chairman of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce. "It's something we've realized over the years we needed to get done," Freeman said just after the vote. "Having a progressive mayor and a progressive council helped. It's one more thing that can make Nashville a great place to live for everybody." The law will create a new oversight office to evaluate bids and proposals and verify that contractors have made an effort to subcontract with female- and minority-owned firms. Businesses that violate the city's requirements when submitting bids can be temporarily suspended or barred from competing for Metro work. The law does not apply to some of the city's largest government agencies, including the school system, Nashville Electric Service and the airport authority. The Metro Charter gives those entities broad authority to set their own policies. The council approved a resolution Tuesday asking those agencies to adopt and follow the new non-discrimination program. Councilman Eric Crafton of West Nashville said the law would let the city break up some large jobs into a number of smaller ones, allowing more companies to get a piece of the pie. "We're going to unbundle it so a $1 million project might now be 10 $100,000 projects," Crafton said. "We have some people who are extremely qualified, and if given the chance, they can succeed." Contact Michael Cass at 259-8838 or

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