Austin – we have a problem!
CHARLES O’NEAL | 3/30/2015, 8:45 a.m.
There is no question that these are difficult times, and in Texas it seems the times get more difficult whenever the Legislature is in session. Already during the 84th Texas Legislature we’ve been treated to a barrage of issues, from immigration and border control, open carry (even on college campuses!), strained education budgets and the usual biennial fights over water and transportation.
There is no question that each of these issues deserves the attention of ALL Texans and the legislative solutions applied to fix them will require far more than the harsh partisan posturing we’ve been treated to so far this session.
In the meantime – while all these other issues swirl around in search of answers, there is one persistent problem that seems to escape resolution: Our state just can’t figure out how to do business with Black Texans!
Since 1999 an increasing number of state agencies have committed – during legislative years – to a series of Memorandums of Cooperation. The intent of the commitment is increased contract awards to the most Texan of groups, Historically Underutilized Businesses. HUBs, as this group has become familiarly known, are Black, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, Native American and White women-owned businesses. During the 83rd Legislature in 2013, disabled military veterans were specifically added to the roster of Texans covered by HUB statutes, despite the fact that any veteran other than a White male would fall into one of the other identified groups.
The Texas Association of African American Chambers of Commerce, an organization comprised of more than 20 Black chambers of commerce from across Texas, has been at the forefront of efforts to change the way Texas agencies fail to include Black-owned businesses in their purchasing decisions. With the consistent, persistent efforts of members of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, TAAACC has kept the issue front and center, forging relationships with agency directors and personnel, constantly challenging them to match agency performance with the intent of the Memorandum of Cooperation.
How’s that working out? We were flabbergasted during last session to learn that spending with Black-owned businesses totaled a paltry .0163 percent of about $14.5 BILLION spent for goods and services in the 2012 budget.
Pretty bad, huh? Imagine, then, our reaction when we discovered that in the 2014 HUB spending report contract awards to Black-owned businesses had slipped to 1.22 percent ... THAT’S A PROBLEM!!!
Because one stereotypical response to our questions to agency staff is “… we can’t find any …” we want to help them. Black Business Day at the Capitol is Tuesday, March 31. If you are in business, want to be in business, or believe that Black businesses deserve a more representative share of Texas agency spending, join us at the Capitol on Tuesday. You’ll get a chance to witness the signing of the 2015 Memorandum of Cooperation, see your government at work and meet the legislators that make the decisions on how your tax dollars are spent. More important than all of that, the presence of thousands of Black business owners in our state Capitol will send an irrefutable message that Black businesses do exist, that the owners of those businesses can provide goods and services to state agencies and those business owners expect the governor, senators and representatives to make sure Texas government is responsive to the concerns of Black-owned businesses.
There are nearly 200,000 Black-owned businesses in our state and by the time of the 2020 Census, Texas will have the second largest Black population among the 50 states. None of this will make a difference if Black Texans don’t have an opportunity to earn a return on our taxpayer investment.
We hope we can count on your presence at the Capitol on Tuesday … and remember: If you’re not part of the solution …