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City Officials Aren’t Wrong In Trying To Aid Minority/Women-Owned Businesses Locally

Crystal Surdyk, city development director, and City Councilwoman Tamu Graham-Reinhardt, D-At Large, aren’t wrong in trying to help Minority/Women-Owned Business Enterprises in the city.

During a recent Jamestown Local Development Corporation meeting, Surdyk said she has been in conversation with Graham-Reinhardt, business consultants Rahsaan Graham and Shannon Greenland, and Jessica Smith, a human resources data strategist and consultant about help for Minority/Women-Owned Business Enterprises, or MWBEs.

“In the wake of the George Floyd incident, I saw an increase in people asking how they can support minority-owned businesses,” Graham-Reinhardt said. “I looked and saw we really don’t have many.”

Local actions to help should be examined, and where the city can help it should do so. But we note there is a bigger issue at play when one gets into MWBEs that should prompt the city to proceed carefully on local issues and perhaps to join with Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, to advocate for change at the state level. Being accepted an an MWBE at the state level opens a business up to a myriad of help through contractual set-asides anytime state funding is involved in a project — but Jamestown simply doesn’t have many state-recognized MWBEs even though there are plenty of businesses owned by minorities and women.

The difficulty in getting certified is something Goodell spoke about on the floor of the state Assembly earlier this year in relation to a local business that is owned by a woman and employs the woman’s husband.

“She is on the plant floor. She knows what’s going on. She signed all of the documents. She runs the company in every way but because her husband is involved, there is apparently some unwritten presumption that she’s not running the program. And I have another one that just came in the other day. It’s a wife and husband team, she runs the company in every respect — the bids, the contracts, everything. Her husband works for her. They start out with this presumption that if it’s a husband and wife team it’s can’t possibly be MWBE. And that is absolutely baloney. So what’s this bill do? It speeds up the denial process without addressing the fact that this MWBE program is not fairly and appropriately evaluating these applications.”

One way city Democrats could help local minorities and women who want a slice of the state pie is urging change in the way the state processes MWBE program applications.

Goodell may get further with some help from city officials.

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