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Montgomery Developing Program for Small, Minority-Owned Businesses

City officials are currently working on a plan to mentor owners of small business and minority-owned businesses that want to do business with the city.

Charles Price, former Montgomery County circuit judge and independent contractor for the city of Montgomery, is currently hammering out details for a business program to reach out to small businesses and minority-owned businesses to help them do work for the city. The program, known as Small and Minority Business Support Initiative Program, is scheduled to go to Mayor Todd Strange by the middle of next week.

“The question about minorities participating in the city business and getting a share of city business has been around for quite some time,” Price said. “The mayor has assured me that he doesn’t just want to issue something just to say we are dealing with the issue; he wants something concrete where there are results.”

The goal of the program is to help businesses who would like to do work with the city, but are unable to bid for work due to bond or financing issues. Businesses applicable for the program include any business that could provide a service to the city, such as construction or maintenance.

“Basically, what you want to look at is get with general contractors, put them with businesses in a mentor-mentee type of relationship, and bring these minorities with the trades into the fold and they can start bidding on these contracts,” Price said.

Strange said that although the scope of the program reaches to a variety of businesses, he is focused on trying to improve minority-owned businesses.

“The thought is it would apply to business across the board, but I’m more interested in the minority side of the equation because of the population of Montgomery,” Strange said.

Recently, the website Nerdwallet conducted a report that placed the Montgomery area as the second-best place in the nation for black-owned businesses, coming behind Columbus, Georgia. District 3 Councilman Tracy Larkin said that in the years he has lived in Montgomery, he has seen a deficit regarding major economic impact for black-owned businesses and that he is glad a program is being created to meet that need.

“I have long complained that we weren’t doing enough, that the city needed a program to develop these disadvantaged businesses, to give them a hand up, to guide them,” Larkin said. “Hopefully, it will give them the lifeline that so many of them desperately don’t have in order to survive so they can build and provide opportunities and contribute to the tax base.”

According the 2010 U.S. Census, black-owned business firms made up 36.9 percent of the city’s 19,208 business firms, which was reported as of 2007. African-Americans make up 56.6 percent of the city’s population.

Price said he is committed to increasing employment opportunities in the city and so is Strange, who he said came to him to start the program.

“He has impressed me with how interested and sincere he is about this approach, so I think we can get something going,” Price said.

Price said he has spoken with stakeholders in city departments that would be affected by the program and said they approve of its goals.

February 25, 2015

Drew Taylor, Montgomery Advertiser

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