Minority business owners often find it difficult to secure opportunities for business economic development in North Texas cities. Therefore, when such opportunities do present itself, all measures must be met with equality, honesty, due diligence and integrity on all parts.
Unfortunately, the City of Irving has seemingly dealt an unjust hand to minority business owners, once again, by awarding less than 10 percent of the $173 million Irving Music Factory (IMF) award bids to minority contract bidders.
The Irving Music Factory project, slated for completion in summer 2017, will be something to behold. Finally filling the entertainment void left when Jerry Jones packed-up the Dallas Cowboys leaving behind Texas Stadium and Valley Ranch for AT&T Stadium and their newly opened headquarters in Frisco.
The location of the new entertainment complex is just north of O’Connor between US Highway 114 and Las Colinas Boulevard in Irving. The project will offer 250,000 square feet of entertainment, retail, and restaurant space. IMF plans include a movie theater, comedy club, and more than 20 restaurant options. It will also feature 100,000 square feet of office space.
North Carolina-based The ARK Group is overseeing the project and has worked with many minority firms to ensure proper appropriation of minority contract handling. However, the question remains why are minority contractors in Irving grossly overlooked?
To date, minorities have only been awarded 8.45 percent based on executed contracts totaling $37,398,138. These awards include A&R Fencing and Southern Glass. In other words, the City of Irving has only paid out $3.16 million of the $37 million to minority contractors.
Where is the justice in that?
Over the years Irving has touted their efforts to work diligently with minority communities to ensure the city awards new contract bids for providing growth opportunities for minority businesses. However, when NDG’s reporters reached out to gain insight on the IMF opportunities a stone wall of silence was received with unanswered phone calls and emails.
The ARK Group is the company overseeing this ambitious project, indicated political red tape in Irving was hindering the progress of the deal, but the company was “sure it was going to be completed.”
That is great news for ARK, the other contractors, Irving taxpayers and future IMF patrons. But where is the sweet sound of success for minority contractors?
The promises and the financial reality
According to the City of Irving’s MWBE Program Guidelines:
“The purpose of an M/WBE Program is to ensure that minority- and woman-owned business enterprises (M/WBE’s) are actively solicited and given an equal opportunity to compete and participate as strategic partners and suppliers of goods and services with the City of Irving. An increase in the number of vendors responding to solicitations from the City of Irving will result in more competition, producing lower pricing for goods and services procured by the city. Partnering with minority- and women-owned businesses is essential to the City of Irving’s local economic growth and development. Such companies are vital to job creation, and they help sustain local economic competition and enhance the city’s overall quality of life.”
For this project the City of Irving has established the following minimum participation goals for minority- and women-owned businesses, with the caveat, goals are subject to periodic review.
The category goal outlined were:
Construction – 30%
Architectural& Engineering – 28%
Professional Services – 33%
Other Services – 20%
Goods – 10%
The overall goal for the City of Irving is a minimum of 26 percent.
So out of $173 million dollars, minority contractors were deemed qualified only to do $37 million dollars in fencing and glass? Was the city unable to find any others qualified to do anything else? What about the City of Irving’s pledge to award minorities up to 30 percent of construction?
Community activist, Anthony Bond told NDG has spoken with several Irving city officials including City of Irving Mayor Pro-Tem Dennis Webb, John Danish, Allan Meagher and David Palmer, supporters of IMF. Bond sought accountability of the City of Irving’s M/WBE goals as outlined in the M/WBE Policy. The question is how are these goals being met in this $173 million dollar project?
According to Bond, he received verbal commitments from both Noah and Rick Lazes of the ARK Group they have asked Skanska, the contractor building the IMF to comply with the City of Irving M/WBE goals as stated in the M/WBE Policy. To date, Bond is sorely disappointed in the numbers reported by the City of Irving.
“To me this is unacceptable,” says Bond. “We have an M/WBE Coordinator, Deborah McVean that I have reached out to with no response to ask, what is she doing to earn her salary? I want to know. The City Manager, Chris Hillman works at the pleasure of the City Council. What is he doing to ensure accountability to all involved to ensure the M/WBE Policy of the City of Irving is being adhered to? Finally, I spoke to Pop Sadler, a Black community leader in Charlotte, NC, where the ARK group built a Music Factory there. I am very pleased to hear from him that the ARK Group has reached out and assisted the minority community there to get a chance for fair participation in contracting and job opportunities. That is what I want and am looking for here in the Irving Music Factory, too.”
Fair share, not leftovers
To be clear, the minority contractors are not looking for a handout. A fair opportunity to participate just as their White counterparts in the IMF bidding process. Their products and services are just as good, if not better. They also know the city of Irving just as well and want a chance to reinvest in the city and their respective communities.
Minorities will be expected to patronize the Music Factory. NDG will be called upon to promote the venue to our audience, usually for free. But as African Americans significantly influence entertainment trends and are heavy entertainment consumers, the goal is a fair chance to fight for those advertising dollars, just as minority contractors have to pursue construction dollars.
In 2016, the minority community is beyond frustrated in having to fight injustices on so many fronts. Be it in the school systems or the legislative halls and courtrooms. Definitely in our business systems, minority business owners have a right to expect fair and impartial business practices.
Irving minority business owners want a fair chance to be included because they are a vital part of the community. Through job creation and community reinvestment, Irving benefits from a healthy minority business community. These organizations will continue to be a part of Irving’s success long after the patrons who are wowed by the entertainment center have gone back to their homes.