The atmosphere in St. Petersburg is absent of real commitment to supporting the growth and development of the local black and disadvantaged business as there has been little growth in the number of qualified contractors in the construction community.
Although some may point to the efforts put forth by the city in terms of offering support to contractors through programs provided by the city and certain city projects being set-aside exclusively for minority or DBE companies, these efforts have proven to be futile when it comes to contractors actually being awarded contracts that can impact their business and help to support an infrastructure that promotes growth.
For decades, the cycle has continued and there has been no sizable change in the minority contractor’s community when it comes to an increase in revenues. All too often statements are made highlighting efforts of some but never acknowledging that the efforts provided may not have been the support needed.
What is constantly stated is all that’s been done and how there is no qualified contractors in spite of the support given. Well, can we really call it support if nothing improves? We need to look at this from a purely economic standpoint and stop expressing how minority contractors are not insured and don’t have bonds and are not licensed.
When a man has to choose between paying his company’s insurance or paying his mortgage and putting groceries on the table, there’s no competition.
We as a city ought to take note of the fact that several minority contractors are experiencing a famine in the land right in the middle of one of the largest construction booms this city has ever seen. Over $500 million in contracts are being spent by private developers south of First Avenue North and I am not aware of one meeting the city has facilitated to encourage them to structure their projects to include all beautiful people that make St. Petersburg one of the finest places in the world to live.
Who’s asking the questions? Who’s setting a precedent in St. Petersburg that all developers and builders understand that St. Peter is one city not, an “us” and “them” city.
How do you expect contractors to develop and grow when this amount of construction is being built in their own backyard and they don’t even get an opportunity to clean up the trash? It’s happening all over this country in progressive cities where city leadership, although legally they can’t require it, set a precedent for all developers and builders that the road to success in their city will be shared by all and not just a few.
When pressed, general contractors and developers are accustomed to structuring projects to include smaller local black subcontractors on their projects. When pressed, larger concrete contractors joint venture with smaller black minority contractors to work on a project with them. When pressed, larger painting contractors joint venture with smaller black minority painting contractors to work with them. When pressed, larger drywall contractors joint venture with smaller black minority drywall contractors to work with them.
We should not be looking at another city’s programs or certifications or class to help minority contractors in St. Petersburg because the evidence says that alone will not work. What we need are serious conversations about establishing a permanent way of doing business in St. Petersburg and that is if you build in St. Petersburg, you will work with black minority and disadvantaged contractors.
Just in the past five years, if we pulled a ledger of permits issued to developers and general contractors not from St. Petersburg building south of First Avenue North, I’m sure it would be upwards of over $500 million.
Just imagine the impact that could have had on the black minority contractor’s community if our city leaders made it a mission to meet with all developers and builders and encourage them to really do business with minority contractors and not just give them a list of a few contractors that are registered with the city.
That list is not a true reflection because over the years several contractors have found it unbeneficial to invest time and resources into keeping their registration current with the city because they never see any real financial benefits.
Just imagine if the new multifamily development planned for 34th Street South if we were having real talks with the developer and general contractor about real efforts to structure the project to include local black minority contractors, how impactful that would be.
Just imagine if the new high-rise being designed for the site downtown on Fourth Street that will probably be upwards of $50 million, imagine if we were having real talks with the developer and general contractor about real efforts to structure the project to include minority contractors how impactful that would be.
There is also the Pier, the police department, the property across from the SPC All State campus, the airport, Lakewood High, the lakefront area… Like I said, in excess of over $500 million going on right now!
It’s only right to allow those who have made this city such a great place to live to benefit from all the new construction that’s going on. Let us not take comfort in the thought that black minority contractors in St. Petersburg just don’t want to get licensed or insured or bonded.
Let us fully subscribe to the mindset that access to resources is the cure to this ills and start a real initiative and work diligently with developers and builders to plan their projects and construction logic to include more minorities on these projects.
Till next week,
Rev. Dr. Robert L. Harrison, PhD – firstname.lastname@example.org, @drrobharrison (Twitter), Robert Bob Harrison (Facebook)