Thursday, October 8, 2009

Councilmember Johnson expresses concern with the amount of opportunities that are not being given to Houston small and minority businesses.

As a Council Member I have always been concerned with the amount of opportunities that are not being given to our small and minority businesses. I have seen a great deal of contracts that have been brought before City Council that have not met their MWBE participation goals and because the general contractor has not met the goals instead of ensuring they are obtained, they request that the goal itself be changed to a 0% goal.

In today’s difficult economic times it is very important that we encourage economic stability through job creation and business opportunities for our chief employers small and minority business. Did you know that small Businesses employ just over half of the country’s private sector workforce and hire 40 percent of high tech workers, such as scientists, engineers and computer workers, this number includes 52 percent home-based businesses and two percent franchises, they represent 97.3 percent of all the exporters of goods, represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms and generate a majority of the innovations that come from United States companies.

When we fail to give opportunities for small and minority businesses to contract with the fourth largest city in this nation, we are not doing our job as elected officials to ensure that we lead in job creation. There are 1,787,607 small businesses in Texas, 399,323 have employees. The remaining 1,388,284 are Texas small businesses that have no employees. On August 5th before the approval of the Bombardier Transportation contract, I spoke during council session regarding this grave injustice of the O% goals and/or the lack of unbundled contracts. At that time the Mayor stated that he agreed with my concerns and joined with my office in requesting an unbundling of contracts. I received a commitment from the Houston Airport Systems (HAS) to begin an unbundling program.

While I accepted this commitment with great skeptism in light of the amount of times I had heard this promise in the past, I still entered into an understanding with HAS in good faith. One month later we are in the same place we were on August 5, 2009. We now have Agenda Item 32, which is a JOC contract worth nine million that offers great contracting opportunities for our SBE and MWBE’s to become prime contractors HAS, that will not overburden or over commit and will create capacity and experience. In the past the main excuse that I have hear from HAS is that the SBE & MWBE’s did not bid, now four out of the six bidding vendors for this contract were SBE/MWBE’s

I am insisting that HAS spilt this contract into three or more additional contracts to ensure more participation of SBE/MWBE. I have received no evidence that this contract cannot be split. We have an inherent problem with allowing and encouraging sub-standard SBE/MWBE participation among our Prime Contractors and not creating more opportunities for our sub contractors to become prime. We cannot continue to count on the promise of better cooperation from these companies.

I am committed to ensuring equal opportunity to all companies who desire to do business with the city of Houston.

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