By Frederick Dakarai
The breakfast event was an excellent forum of information and discussion of various business and political subjects and initiatives of the City, County and State. It was short (about an hour) and to the point which was great for a Friday morning. There was a crowd of about 50 business men and women eager to exchange information; Kudos to AACC; It was a nice networking event.
The theme “Positive Directions for Economic Development” featured some heavy political hitters: Spencer Coggs, State Senator 6th District and past candidate for Lieutenant Governor…Lee Holloway, Interim County Executive (30 days with an option to appoint and extend an additional 75 days) and candidate for County Executive and current Chairman of the County Supervisors…Willie Hines, Alderman 15th District and current Common Council President.
Interim County Executive Lee Holloway started the conversation with a brief personality profile of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Holloway stated, “I have worked with Scott Walker for 8 years…philosophically I don’t get along with him; I have a passion for humanistic services, I care about people who don’t have some of the same things I have and, that’s where the conflict I have with Scott Walker, he’s not passionate about human services or people who have less.”
Holloway continued by exposing the fact that Walker is the son of a minister which baffled him knowing Walker’s views on social services. Most importantly Holloway encouraged the crowd by directly stating that in terms of business, if that business fits in Walker’s initiative, Scott Walker is NOT preoccupied by color – You need not be scared of him! If you can navigate around the people who guard him that may be preoccupied with color, one can be successful.
Supervisor Holloway presented a snapshot of some of his not-so-well-known major initiatives and achievements. He made special note to contact his or Supervisor Mayo’s office if one would like to do business in and around the airport; Holloway also pointed out a new mental health initiative where there will not be one big building but various RFPs will be published; Damon Dorsey is the new Economic Development person at the County; Redistricting will take place in April.
State Senator Spencer Coggs immediately acknowledged the continual fight to promote businesses of color and urged businesses to “To Turn To Each Other, Not On Each Other.” Coggs gave detailed examples of the non-application of “turn to each other, not on each other” with the State’s 5 percent minority “set-aside” program that has yet to achieve its 5 percent goal; The construction of Miller Park, which was filled with much contention, was lauded by Coggs as the correct application of “turn to each other, not on each other” with minority businesses getting 32 percent participation and over $100 million worth of project business.
Continuing on that theme, Senator Coggs documented the Marquette Interchange Project where the project was under-utilizing businesses of color early in the procurement process and due to who many call “The Junkyard Dog in the Italian Suite”, State Senator Coggs was instrumental in achieving increased minority participation of 50 percent due to “the commission turning to each other, not on each other.”
State Senator Coggs has initiated an economic strike force group that will be proactive in finding solutions for minority businesses that may be incurring some type of temporary hardship. If anyone is interested in participating in the Strike Force Group which will combine resources from the City, County and State Departments of Commerce and Administration, contact Spencer Coggs at email@example.com and/or call 1-877-474-2000.
Common Council President Willie Hines spoke eloquently about the concept of change and how businesses should be drivers of change along with the importance of minority businesses expanding their capacities. The City has a MOORE ordinance of 40 percent resident preference and a 25 percent Emerging Business Enterprise Program.
He was constructively critical of the administration of the EBE program and its monitoring and accountability practices. His tone of criticism was very business-like and of genuine concern. “We have the EBE office, purchasing office and various other offices that should achieve those goals and, as we all know, They Don’t and, that is a problem that we continue to face!”.
President Hines lamented that the “lay of the land” of the City hasn’t changed simply because of the elections and, ”whatever your results (working with the City) were or were not, they will most likely be the same.”
Alderman Hines did hypothetically put himself in the Mayor’s seat in explaining his vision of EBE accountability and doing business with the City would be under his administration. In general, President Hines believes in the equitable sharing of the financial pie by all and that firms who do business with the city will contribute to it socially. Hines was clear that social impact will be as important as completing the project.
Go to www.aaccmke.org for more information about the African-American Chamber of Commerce