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McDonnell administration aims to recruit minority businesses

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RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - Despite procurement laws and policies that are aimed at recruiting small and minority owned businesses, Jeff Neal said competing with much larger companies that have stronger ties to the government has been challenging.

As a minority business owner with a reputable electrical business, Neal said he’s bid for five government contracts, but hasn’t been awarded one yet.

“The good ol’ boy system, do not be fooled, is as strong today as it was sixty or eighty years ago,” Neal said.

He also claimed the bidding process is burdensome and confusing for many business owners.  He argues without government guidance for small business owners, procurement policies are pointless.

“You could have programs set up, free classes…where they can go and understand the procurement process and where they can learn to prepare a bid,” argues Neal.

At the start of the General Assembly session last week, some small and minority business advocates protested outside the Virginia State Capitol.

Some held up a government study that showed of the $9 billion dollars in government contracts awarded between 2005 and 2009, less than 3 percent were given to minority owned businesses.

“We want economic equality,” argued protestor Jerry Blow.  “What we’re asking is the governor to put in place remedies that will give African Americans and other minorities a larger piece of the pie.”

The McDonnell administration said one of its top priorities is implement policies and legislation that will make it easier for minority businesses to secure government contracts.

Since taking office, Governor Bob McDonnell has commissioned studies aimed a pinpointing problems and finding solutions to the low minority procurement numbers.

In December, the administration hired the first director for supplier diversity to make sure procurement policies were being carried out.

Republican Delegate Margaret Ransone is also proposing legislation that will make it easier for small and minority owned businesses to apply for business certifications online.

“We want to streamline it, make sure this online access is quick, simple and easy for everyone,” Ransone said.

According to Al Bowers, President of the Black Business Action Alliance, some minority businesses are already starting to see an improvement because of the governor’s policies.

Bowers said over the past two years, government spending aimed at recruiting minority businesses has increased from $100 million to $250 million dollars.

Neal said he hasn’t seen any improvements personally because of the governor’s policies, but hopes to see change soon.

“It’s a marriage if you will,” argues Neal.  “If you partner is not doing their part, there’s no sense in doing yours