County to study why minority-owned businesses aren’t getting contract bids

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County Commissioners want to find out why more minority contractor are not getting more contract bids within the county.

“I don’t care whether it’s a black or white business minority or otherwise. It’s not fair for our local residents that are in business to not have the opportunity to do business where they live,” said Commission Chair James Harvey.

Even though there’s no proof of any problems, Harvey says the county isn’t doing enough to help small minority run businesses succeed.

” If small and medium-size businesses fail, it sends a negative signal. It has a negative stain on the city by in large.”

But some call what started all this a stain.

Harvey is one of several people who defended commissioner Henri Brooks when she lashed out at a Latino business owner during a meeting last month. She said he had too many Latino workers and not enough African-Americans.

“Don’t compare our struggles. You wanted to come here! We didn’t.”

African-American leaders said Brooks chose the wrong words, but had the right point – that there are problems hiring enough minority-owned businesses.

So Thursday, commissioners decided the county will examine who it contracts business out to, and make sure there’s a level playing field. Commissioner Harvey says the team they hire to do the study will have experience studying cities the size of Memphis.

“They know where all of the hidden agendas are. I would like to think they know.”

And while silent for most of today’s meeting, Brooks had another message for her critics, who question if she lives in her district.

“I would hope we could stop this high-tech lynching”

Pastor Keith Norman of the Memphis-Based NAACP hopes this study will actually lead to change in the county, unlike the studies done in the past.

Commissioners say that study should take about a year.