CINCINNATI -- Just 11 years ago Markiea Carter was a college intern at Cincinnati City Hall, learning about how government really works.
Now, this Cincinnati native, who has worked her way through the ranks at City Hall, is the new head of one of the city’s most high-profile departments.
City Manager Harry Black chose Carter as the interim head of the Department of Economic Inclusion -- which aims to boost the number of city contracts awarded to women- and minority- owned businesses -- after former leader Thomas Corey went on medical leave and then retired. Carter is widely considered the favorite to keep the post permanently.
“She is a real talent,” Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley said. “I believe this will be the first of several major leadership positions for her to have during the course of her career, hopefully with the city as long as possible.”
This rising star at city hall returned from maternity leave after the birth of her first child in mid-November and was offered the new post.
Carter had been an assistant to the city manager since January 2014, where she oversaw several big projects, including the audit of the city’s park department.
Before that, she was a development officer in the city’s Department of Community and Economic Development where she worked mainly on projects in Westwood and Price Hill.
That’s when she first met Cranley. Before Cranley was elected mayor in 2013, he worked to restore the historic Incline District of East Price Hill, developing a project with condominiums and a restaurant.
“She was my contact (at the department), and she was incredible,” Cranley said. “She could forecast problems before they even occurred to me, and she would solve them.”
Cranley remembered calling Carter many times after 5 p.m., expecting to leave a message, only to have her answer the phone every single time.
The position was created in 2015 to boost the number of city contracts awarded to women- and minority- owned businesses. And Black recruited Corey out of retirement to lead it. They knew each other when both worked for the city of Baltimore.
But Carter will have big shoes to fill at the Department of Economic Inclusion with Corey’s retirement.
The city once awarded a tiny fraction of its hundreds of million of contracting dollars to businesses owned by women and minorities.
In just a short time under Corey’s tenure, the department made great strides to change that.
In the first nine months of 2016, the city awarded more than $11.2 million in construction contracts to minority-owned businesses.
This is dramatic change from earlier years. Over a five-year period from 2009 to 2013, the city spent $9.5 in total construction contracts with minority businesses.
“We want to keep the progress up and keep moving and we believe Markiea will do that,” Cranley said. “One of my core values is to be focused on inclusion, and I believe that diversity and inclusion is going to be the key to our long-term success.”
Now, with Carter at the helm, at least temporarily, her top goal is to expand the number of women- and minority-owned businesses that are certified to work with the city.
“A real emphasis will be on expanding the overall base of certified firms which does two things -- it enhances competition … and the value we receive for what we’re spending,” Black said.
Carter expects to certify more than 200 of those businesses by the end of 2016.
“The big thing in 2017 is increasing our certification numbers,” Carter said.
Carter also wants to expand the number and variety of classes the city sponsors for minority business owners.
The city’s Business Training Center started with fewer than a dozen participants. By December more than 50 business owners had registered for the monthly classes on topics such as how to do business with the city and marketing.
“People see the results of our efforts. They know we’ve made a lot of changes in terms of how we engage in our procurement activities,” Black said. “I believe we’ve established credibility.”