Alderman Sawyer (6th) Wants More For Minority Businesses
2/28/2018, noon | Updated on 2/28/2018, noon
Alderman Sawyer (6th) Wants EDUCATION More For Minority Businesses
By: Katherine Newman
Sixth Ward Alderman Roderick Sawyer was recently featured as the guest speaker at the City Club of Chicago’s forum on civic and public affairs. He spoke about significant challenges faced by minority communities and minority business owners. Sawyer is the Chairman of Chicago’s City Council Black Caucus.
Sawyer focused heavily on the reform of Chicago’s Minority Owned Business (MBE) Procurement Program, which provides a greater opportunity for minority-owned businesses to receive city contracts. This program creates new opportunities in middle-class minority communities that have seen record levels of disinvestment over the last several years, according to
However, the program is not perfect according to Sawyer. “We need to acknowledge that race plays an essential role in hiring decisions and policies that are proposed and enacted by those that are in power. We as a city cannot continue to ignore that,” said Sawyer. “This is why I have proposed removing both the personal net worth caps and business caps for MBE organizations.”
The caps that Sawyer is aiming to abolish put a limit on the amount of money an MBE can make to qualify for the program.
“Currently if a company makes, on average, 27 million over three years they no longer qualify as a minority business. That number as a gross revenue amount is much too low to pretend that a black or latino company no longer needs help being put onto projects,” said Sawyer. “If you are currently certified, your net worth cannot be over approximately 2.4 million dollars. That is less than many pro athletes make and it’s clear they have not overcome race.”
Sawyer said that while the MBE Program is an asset to minority owned
businesses, the financial caps put a limit on the success that can be achieved.
“The current system incentivizes black and latino owned companies to stay small. In fact, even worse, it punishes them for being big. Without fully addressing this system, all of the growth in Chicago over the next 10 to 15 years will still largely be controlled by the same white lead organizations,” said Sawyer.
The current system only provides limited opportunities to people of color. If the MBE’s were able to grow without losing the support of the MBE Procurement Program then they could potentially reach a level of success that would allow them to invest back into their own communities, according to Sawyer.
“This is how we change perceptions. If black businesses grow as large as any company or rise to heights in corporations, we can begin to chip away at the idea that we are somehow lesser,” said Sawyer.
As his speech began to come to a close Sawyer made a statement, that he said he makes often, “When it comes to public money, the dollars should seek to represent the percentage of the city made up by that ethnic group.”
Sawyer is challenging the city to truly enforce the rules and contracts set by the MBE Procurement Program and make sure that when large contracts are awarded to MBE’s, the city spending meets what is promised.