AUSTIN, TEXAS – Thursday, March 30, 2017 became a new “red-letter” day for African American and Mexican American businesses in Texas when the statewide business organizations representing their interests made history by signing Memorandum of Cooperation with over two dozen state agencies. State Agencies included University of Texas, Texas A&M University, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Texas Department of Transportation (TxDot), and Texas Health and Human Services Commission to name a few.
While the Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce provided a positive message praising the Department leaders of doing a good job, the Texas Association of African American Chambers of Commerce remarks definitely spoke to a different level of urgency.
Christopher C. Herring, chairman of the Texas Association of African American Chambers of Commerce (TAAACC) is certain of the significance of the ceremony conducted in the State Capitol building. Unfortunately, this year, typical HUB champion, Texas Senator Royce West, was stuck on the Senate floor fighting for important legislation. During Herring’s remarks, he became the moral compass and leaned on the State Agency Leaders and Directors, with a specific charge to put their faiths into action and improve Black Business participation.
In the state of Texas, Historically Underutilized Businesses or HUB are enacted under a “good faith effort".
Over the last fiscal year, 1.22% of the state’s spent contract dollars were spent with African-American or Black Businesses which Herring called “appalling and horrible at best.” He stated to the Directors that the cooperation agreements that are signed as a “Good Faith Effort” is flawed.
Herring asked a rhetorical question of the Directors to what type of Faith were they practicing. “I grew up in a Christian home, and my Bible tells me to practice my faith…I’m not sure what faith you may have to achieve the dismal results [1.22%] for African Americans. Was it agnostic faith or an unbeliever’s faith? If this was the intent, maybe we shouldn’t have signed such an agreement. I am hopeful we can achieve a major turnaround.”
When Herring took on the leadership position in TAAACC in 2015, the State of Texas spending topped $15 billion while African Americans were awarded contracts totaling only 1.63% in construction, goods and services, and professional services.
“Whether 1.63% or 1.22%, we [African Americans] represent nearly 15% of the state’s population. Certainly our participation and tax contribution is significantly much greater than what we reap.
We are the fastest growing business sector…with over 250,000 Black businesses in the state, we must open up every opportunity” said Herring.
Herring says, “We have to realize that HUB has too many loopholes. Since Texas certification puts race over ethnicity, and ethnicity over gender, and gender over Veteran status, Blacks are picked off the top and eliminated for contract opportunity. Similarly, it is an Alternative Fact to believe any woman of color is woman HUB certified business. For contracting purpose Black or Hispanic women are NOT considered a woman for HUB purposes.
The Observer confirmed the biggest state spending under HUB supports White/Anglo women businesses and the new Veteran business category primarily supports White/Anglo males – “two groups that have never been discriminated against.”
“Again why do we move forward in good faith if we are not benefiting from the Texas HUB program? Why do we promote our companies to register as a certified HUB, when the motivation in front of them is a 1.22% return? We remain hopeful as we cannot give up on public funds that we invest in Texas every day” says Herring.
Equally disappointing was the Texas Legislative Black Caucus (TLBC) was missing in action. Senate or House members were not there to witness or encourage the State Agency Directors to improve. “The TLBC represents a very large percentage of Black Business and their partnership with TAAACC is critical to our overall survival. We are disappointed that Black business goals or economic development is not their current priority” said a Black Chamber President that traveled far, who preferred to be anonymous.
Whether at the state level, or in the city of San Antonio, 1% remains to be the bar of the commitment level of utilizing African American businesses. During the anniversary of the assassination of Rev Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., the question remains what more should be done to activate change? To see the Texas Agencies who signed an agreement to improve HUB participation: www.TAAACC.org.