Saturday 28 January 2023
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Memphis Seeking African-American Contractors to Diversify Downtown Development Project

In an effort to increase the number of black-owned companies that receive government contracts, city officials in Memphis, TN, are only considering African-American contractors as they plan for an upcoming development.

According to the Memphis Business Journal, the Downtown Memphis Commission (DMC) has scheduled meetings with three African-American contracting companies to complete a $17.9 million mixed-use development project on Martin Luther King Jr. Ave.memphis

Terence Patterson, president of the DMC, believes that this new focus on diversification when hiring contractors will benefit the city in more ways than one.

“It’s an important point to continue to think about how we can do more around minority and women-owned participation, not just at the sub [contractor] level, but all levels of development,” said Patterson.

There has been growing concern with the lack of diversity among developers in the Memphis area, particularly in the hiring of lead contractors for special city projects. On April 22, a “matchmaker” from the National Minority Business Council arrived in Memphis to help the DMC find qualified African-American candidates in the region.

“Hopefully, we can get an African American to be [general contractor],” said Jay Goff, vice president of development and planning for the DMC. “If that doesn’t happen, we’ll still have great participation in the sub [contractors}.”

An average-sized roof typically takes about four days to install, but whichever contractor lands this lucrative development job will need to commit at least one year to the project. Construction is set to begin this spring, but the mix of lofts and commercial space will not begin leasing until late 2017.

As the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service reported, Memphis is not the only city with diversity issues in contractor employment. Public records from the Department of Public Works in Milwaukee, WI, revealed that only one out of 125 prime government contracts in 2012 were given to black-owned contractors.

In January 2012, a new city ordinance went into effect that was supposed to make it easier for African-American contractors to obtain government work. However, many still feel as if this law is not helping black-owned companies to “get their foot in the door” for more lucrative projects.

As for the DMC’s upcoming project, the development has been officially approved by the city’s Design Review Board. Construction will begin as soon as an African-American lead contractor is hired.