By MARILYN ROBINSON

Published: Tuesday, 10/16/07

The Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority's plan for race- and gender-based goals for awarding contracts is very promising. Rodney Strong of Griffin & Strong, PC, the consultant that conducted the disparity study, noted major deficiencies and corrective recommendations that are on point.

 

I must say that I am very elated and extremely pleased with some of the recommendations to jump-start the program. Some of the recommendations based on best practices include waiving bid bonds for construction jobs below $1 million, unbundling jobs by sections and bidding jobs based on their components, accepting bank letters of credit in lieu of bonding and increasing advertising of opportunities in local newspapers.

What pleases me most is that the airport will have a program with firm policies and procedures including enforcement and accountability. Beyond enforcement, the policies and procedures must clearly identify the consequences for non-compliance. Written procedures must be an integral part of this program and any program designed to facilitate minority- and women-owned business participation.

In the past, airport personnel had the latitude and authority to waive competitive selections that created a discriminatory effect against minorities and women. In the past, department heads, managers and directors were somewhat unclear on the role of the Minority Affairs Diversity Officer. Now with clear and explicit written policies and procedures those practices should change. The department heads, managers and directors must understand that the success of this program is their responsibility too and not solely the Office of Diversity Development.

Through several meetings, I and other community members have grown to know members of the board much better and feel assured that the president and the board are committed to implement the changes.

In the next 100 days, the community would like to see some action. Specifically, we would like to see clearly communicated goals and written policies and procedures that will result in increased contracts awarded to companies owned by minorities and women.

The NAACP, Nashville Minority Business Center, Middle Tennessee Diversity Contracting Association, Jefferson Street United Merchants Partnership, Tennessee Minority Supplier Development Council, Interdenominational Ministers Fellowship and concerned members of the Metropolitan Nashville City Council will continue to be involved and work to assist the Airport Authority in implementing the recommendations as presented in the disparity study.