How Philly Can Include Black And Brown Entrepreneurs In Its Construction And Development Industry

Philadelphia Business Journal

Philadelphia is a vast city where the majority of the population is comprised of minority groups. However, this aspect is often overlooked when it comes to local developments and obtaining contracts with suppliers.

Markets determine both winners and losers, but people also play a crucial role in this decision. If you can identify and connect with the right individuals, your business is sure to thrive. However, if you lack this knowledge, it may prove difficult to expand your business in an urban environment.

When I decided to launch my own company, I knew that success in the marketplace would take a lot of dedication and practical thinking. Being a black man with qualifications in both engineering and information science, I'd honed my abilities and become well-versed in the field. My business strategy brought together biotechnology, building, and the pursuit of fairness in society, which made it distinct from others. I began with humble beginnings and put in the effort to develop my operation wisely.

I was not expecting the difficulties in Philadelphia that my qualifications and background could not overcome. There were obstacles in the form of a complex bureaucratic system and well-established closed circles.

The city we reside and conduct business in has over fifty percent of individuals who identify as people of color. This group of individuals has to face struggles to gain a foothold in the boardroom or even create an opportunity for themselves. Unfortunately, in the year 2023, the flawed system and its negative effects continue to hinder the progress and prosperity of small businesses owned by Black and Brown individuals in Philadelphia. This hindrance exists in the form of limited access to connections, resources, and financial support.

Despite the existence of challenging barriers, there is a glimmer of hope. With the creation of new systems, there is potential for them to be enhanced and adjusted.

For a long time, I have observed that Philadelphia's leaders express a desire for diversity in local supplier and construction sectors. However, I have noticed that these systems have become more difficult to penetrate despite having all the necessary qualifications. By implementing policy reforms, modifying regulations, and enhancing business services and funding availability, we can establish more chances for businesses owned by Black and Brown individuals to flourish.

It's time to make actual changes in regulations that will make it easier to conduct business. This includes taking a closer look at the certification process for MBE/WBEs that are owned by women or minorities. We should also review the fees associated with certification and provide more support with administrative tasks.

Although I fully comprehend the necessity of such certifications, the present procedure poses a hindrance to real MBEs who possess the proper qualifications, skills, and desire to undertake the work. Acquiring MBE certification compels me to travel out of the city and potentially expend a substantial sum of funds.

In order to support minority-owned businesses, the city needs to establish a certification process for MBEs that is separate from the Rebuild Initiative. This process should guide business owners through the certification process without the need for yearly renewals. The renewal process is expensive and time-consuming, so it would be beneficial for the certification to last for three years instead. This would allow business owners to focus on expanding their network and developing their company's portfolio. As a business owner myself, I believe it is crucial to concentrate on business development and the overall growth of the city rather than constantly renewing certifications.

City officials and leaders of community organizations can provide guidance to entrepreneurs on how to engage with minority-owned businesses (MBEs) in a fair and just manner. They can also hold those who exploit MBEs as mere placeholders or diversity hires accountable for their actions. When unethical conduct goes unchecked, it only serves to encourage further misconduct. Unfortunately, many developers who rely on MBEs merely to secure contracts often escape accountability. This practice not only enables their ongoing misconduct but also poses significant obstacles for authentic MBEs seeking to secure contracts and operate effectively.

We have talked repeatedly about the problem of insufficient access to funds and bonds. It's time to find a solution. The city can assist in resolving this dilemma by tackling two things.

A possible resolution is to furnish an initial investment to assist in obtaining the bond using a loan that does not accrue interest. The proprietor of the enterprise will possess the necessary funds to secure the bond and finalize the undertaking. After concluding the project, the business owner reimburses the loan and broadens their assortment.

Another option would be for the city and its major organizations to take on self-insurance for their projects and get rid of the need for bonds on projects with lower monetary values. This approach has the potential to give more opportunities to minority-owned businesses to take on more substantial projects and demonstrate their skills and capabilities.

City Leadership Access Made Easy

Business owners who are Black and Brown and have connections to other professionals need to have immediate communication lines open with the mayor's office. It is crucial that this office enforces regulations for timely payments. Additionally, the mayor's team, who are responsible for implementing policies and managing projects, should be reachable and, most importantly, be fully committed to promoting a fair and all-encompassing city.

People in leadership positions may have grand visions and hope for a better future, but it takes more than just having these high ideals to make a difference. For example, if the individuals hired to make these visions a reality aren't fully invested in promoting diversity and fairness within the community, then small businesses owned by minorities may not see any growth, and people of color might continue to face limited opportunities. This principle applies to big organizations as well.

Authorities and those in charge of awarding contracts in Philadelphia need to recognize and appreciate the potential of Black and Brown entrepreneurs to effectively manage and complete projects. These business owners are fully capable of developing, constructing, and delivering successful outcomes.

As individuals deeply involved in these difficulties, we are working towards increasing the number of businesses owned by Black and Brown individuals in Philadelphia. We are also seeking out opportunities for these businesses to grow and enter new markets. Additionally, we have partnered with allies in the Inclusive Growth Coalition to achieve our mutual objectives. This coalition has been making significant strides in advocating for small business owners in Philadelphia. By collaborating, we are making progress towards making lasting improvements.

It is essential to implement these measures that will enable talented and skilled people of color to establish sustainable businesses in Philadelphia. Collaborating with elected representatives, city departments, the community, and private firms, we can establish a fair and long-lasting future for minority businesses operating in development and supply sectors.

If Philadelphia's leaders truly want to promote overall growth, they need to make a more deliberate effort to dismantle systems that don't effectively and efficiently contribute to inclusive growth.

Although our community of business owners who identify as people of color is currently displaying excellent strength, innovation, and determination, there is still a great distance that must be traversed to guarantee fairness and the inclusion of every individual. We require a government within the city that will strive towards cultivating an environment that welcomes individuals of all backgrounds and providence, promote inclusivity, as well as seek to resolve the difficulties that minority-owned businesses face in various sectors.

If we want to achieve our goals, we require a collective effort. This effort entails active participation from various parties such as the larger business community, local commercial areas, and individuals in decision-making positions. This collaboration is crucial now more than ever before.

Calvin Snowden, Jr. holds the positions of head honcho and leading figure at BDFS Group in Philadelphia.

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