By JOHN PROCTOR and KIMBERLY SHAW
Regional Black Contractors Association
The Black community collectively is at a disadvantage in workforce, health care, education, economic development and enterprise. Just recently, the Dallas Morning News produced an article on the unhealthiest zip codes and 75215 – which is the Black community – has the lowest age for average life expectancy. In education, Black students are less likely than White students to have access to college ready courses and our community pre-COVID was in need of mending.
Today, we look around and see that what was intended to serve as a “help up” for the Black community, is now another system that we fight within (in most cases, against Black people themselves who are in leadership positions) and Blacks continue to be left out of the arithmetic for selfish gains. Unfortunately, what is surprising is that the industry continues to meet or exceed MBE goals but not with Blacks.
*Check out our August write up to learn more about how Richard Nixon formed MBE out of the Black Enterprise movement of the ’60s.
Blacks make up 1% of pre-construction contracts, 4% of construction contracts and 2% of the construction labor force. I can’t help but ask why do you think that is? Why is it that Black contractors are fighting (sometimes each other) to get the crumbs of what’s left of the “MBE” pie? And where are our Black workers?
There is a disparity within the arithmetic and those of you who know the Regional Black Contractors Association, know that we are looking at the root of the problem to offer a solution. The RBCA believes in putting those solutions into action to grow Black numbers across the board.
The solution we advocate for is Team Building with Black firms to grow capacity. If a pre-construction prime firm is looking to grow capacity of a firm, then partner with a firm that does pre-construction. If there is a prime construction firm looking to grow capacity, partner with a firm that does construction and so on. Once that firm has gained the experience necessary to position themselves as a prime it is essential that the end-users have a procurement process that supports contracting with minority prime firms so Blacks can truly grow capacity. To note, Black primes hire other Black business (or at least they should). What doesn’t grow capacity is keeping Blacks out, and now so more than ever, it is evident.
In terms of increasing the Black labor force, the solution is for leadership to send the message to developers and contractors that it is okay to hire Black companies and people from the Second Chance Program – teaching them skilled labor trades.
Our Second Chance Hiring Program, offers construction industry related classroom training through our partners, Dallas College, and Tarrant County College; providing a pipeline of trained labor force to support the growing demand of construction workers. We focus on the ex-offender population and decreasing recidivism and increasing the taxpayer base. If you drive by any construction site, I guarantee, you will have to look very hard for Black workers. We aren’t working like we should be and that needs to change. For those of you who are invested in the program, we are making phenomenal strides and impacting the community by offering a Second Chance at life.
The RBCA does not have a dog in the fight; we have dogs in the fight. We advocate for the purpose of growing Black capacity and improving the quality of life for the communities we serve. We do not have personal agendas and therefore the RBCA is undeniably advocating for our members as a whole. The Team Building concept is proven to be successful and we expect our members and partners (of all ethnicities) to participate in this model. Whether you are a locally based firm or if your headquarters is elsewhere and you are pursuing opportunities in the North Texas region, the expectation is that our members invest into the local communities where they do business. By teaming and participating in workforce development programs firms are certain to leave the lasting impression they desire.
Continue to perform with excellence, build capacity and bid on projects! God bless y’all, the United States of America and the RBCA!
John Proctor is the chairman of the Regional Black Contractors Association. Kimberly Shaw is the president of the association. Located in South Dallas, they can be contacted through https://www.blackcontractors.org.