WCPO's editorial board met with each of the three candidates for mayor of Cincinnati. We asked each the same questions. We're reporting their answers in a series of articles leading up to Tuesday's primary.
Question: What are your plans to improve minority contracting?
John Cranley: We made it a huge priority of my campaign to push for a Croson study. We really didn't get rolling on it until 2016. In one year, we went from 3 or 4 percent African American contracts, and -- once we got the Croson study in place -- we took it to 17 and a half percent last year. Which in round numbers, is roughly $4 million a year to $19 million a year. This year we intend to do even better than 17 percent.
When you think about the multiplier effect of the extra $13 or $14 million in contractors' hands, it has a huge multiplier impact that will continue to be positive.
We published 95 companies by name who had received contracts. The question of how far are we along on the spend of those contracts will come out in the next couple of weeks.
Over the course of a calendar year, the amount of those contracts was roughly $20 million, but some of those contracts might take more than a year to execute. Obviously, the whole $20 million wasn't spent within a calendar year, but it will be spent within a year of the contract being awarded.
Note: The Croson study was done by an outside firm, and it found patterns of disparity in how the government has awarded contracts. A Supreme Court decision requires the documenting of those disparities in order for any attempt to steer more work to women- and minority-owned companies to withstand legal challenges
Yvette Simpson: The challenge with the minority inclusion program now is that, for one, we're not measuring the right thing. There are a lot of inconsistencies in the data that's being presented. The heart and soul of minority inclusion says that everybody should be given the opportunity to compete for contracts with the city, and we found that, historically, that wasn't happening with minority- and women-owned businesses.
The mayor decided to create a subcontractor-only program. I wouldn't do that. I would make our goals both prime contractors and subcontractors.
I wouldn't even talk about awards. Awards are misleading. You can't spend an award. I can't take an award to the bank and deposit it. The idea that we met our goal in one year because we have 17 percent awards is not true. The only thing that matters and the only thing we ever measured before was spending.
Don't compare a spend in 2013 to an award in 2016. It's not an apples to apples comparison.
I want to see more resources spent on small businesses in general. We want to see expansion in the tech space. We want to see expansion in the retail space. We want to see expansion in the service space. We want to see expansion in construction outside of what the city does, too.
Rob Richardson Jr.: We need to do more to build capacity. The Hillman Accelerator here focuses on tech companies for women- and minority-owned businesses. That's extremely important. Its extremely important to give access and to give infrastructure and support early on because there's not enough African-Americans, frankly, and people of color and women in the tech sector, which is where a lot of the new businesses are going to grow.
One of my concepts is going to be to work the University of Cincinnati and others to provide incubation spaces to help build businesses and use the assets we have there for the community. I hope the research institute can be a gateway to more opportunities for people.
Just the contracting approach is not going to change the game ten years from now. It's just not enough. It's an easy short-term vision but if we really want to expand opportunities we have to figure out how to build more pathways and pipelines.
Note: The Hillman Accelerator, announced in April, was started to help startup tech companies owned by women and minorities get funding and business guidance.