Friday, September 15, 2006

Memphis says no to Hispanics as minority business owners

Excluded from municipal selection on projects like FedEx Forum

Business TN reports in this article that Memphis does not recognize Hispanics as a minority when it solicits bids for contracts from minority-owned businesses.

"The municipality’s minority and women business enterprise (MWBE) procurement program keeps Hispanic businessmen out of the running for government incentives by narrowly defining a minority as 'those persons, citizens of the United States and lawfully admitted resident aliens, who are African American (persons whose origins are in one of the Black regional groups of Africa).' The MWBE ordinance was rewritten a few years ago to include women of any ethnicity. As a result, Hispanic-owned businesses are ineligible to bid as a minority-owned business on municipal projects like public schools, parking garages or the FedExForum. Members of the Hispanic business community are concerned that such a narrow definition could disenfranchise much of its entrepreneurial class."

"'Hispanics provide the labor, but they don’t get to management level,' says corporate and immigration attorney Charles Blatteis, former president of Memphis' Hispanic Business Alliance. Blatteis notes the ordinance isn’t unique. Shelby County had a similar policy that was thrown out after Mayor A C Wharton Jr. took office four years ago. Atlanta had a similar view of minorities until the Chamber of Commerce—with the help of Jesse Jackson—lobbied to change the wording to include Latinos."

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