By WARREN A. SAWYERS

Published: Tuesday, 10/16/07

Since the Sunday, Oct. 7 article was published in The Tennessean, several people (black and white) have asked me what happened with Metro in 2002, and if I believe that unfair contracting practices still exist in the USA.

 

As I recall, our company was clearly the lowest bidder in two of five categories, more than 60 percent of the total spent. We had successfully performed on other Metro and NES contracts. We also had excellent references from private sector companies where the contract sizes were two to five times larger than the Metro contract. Plus, we had been in business for 10 years, with a proven record of managing a contract of this size.

Metro awarded the business to a large corporation, which listed my company in their proposal as a minority subcontractor. We never agreed to this as they also did not include the required affidavit for me to sign granting them permission to use our name. I protested the use of our name and the subjective evaluation process. Metro still found in the best interest of the city to award this small contract to a multi-billion dollar European-based company.

Courts recognize disparity

For many years, federal, state and local governments have awarded very few of its contracts to ethnic minorities. The federal courts recognize this disparity and have determined that if the government (federal, state or local) conducts a study and finds contracting disparities, then the government can implement certain processes to level the playing field. I have participated in the two studies conducted by Metro (1998 and 2002) with conclusive evidence that disparities exist in Metro.

As Americans, we are continuously haunted by decisions of those that have come before us. Many have benefited greatly at the expense of others that were not offered the same opportunities, due to the social climate of the time. I personally do not like the idea of social programs, and wish we did not need them. Our company did not need an unfair advantage to win the bid, just a fair assessment, with Metro following the processes in place at the time. However, I do feel that locally based businesses should be considered first in the process. Don't you?

Our state and city governments spend millions of dollars in incentives, including land, road development, and tax breaks to lure and keep large corporations in our area. Likewise, it should be a sound business practice economically to maintain and attract minority businesses. Studies prove that minority businesses tend to spend more, hire more and give back more to their communities than others. By doing so, we, as minority entrepreneurs, contribute to the economy.

Yes, there still exist problems with government contracting at all levels. Once again, I was recently advised that a corporation used my company's name to win a state contract — without my knowledge. My hope is that Mayor Karl Dean, along with the new city leadership, will be forward-thinking and fair-minded in bringing the changes necessary to make Nashville an inclusive city and be rid of the unfair contracting practices that prevail.