For about a quarter of a century, Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Skip Alston has been visibly displeased with the county’s efforts to conduct more business with Minority and Women Business Enterprises (MWBE).

However, after a string of moves by Guilford County government, Alston is now praising the county’s efforts, and, at a commissioners meeting in mid-April, Alston was effusive in his comments regarding the new MWBE director and the county’s latest effort to get more MWBE participation in county contracts.

Truth be told, the county’s use of women-owned businesses over the last two and a half decades has not been that abysmal. However, the amount of participation of minority-owned businesses has been low all century long, and, until now, Alston has been one of the biggest critics of that fact.

At times over the years, Alston has even raked MWBE staff over the coals in public meetings and has been critical of the county’s efforts in the press.  He has also sent out special invitations to black business owners to come to commissioners meetings and voice their complaints over how the county has treated minority firms at times.

But no more. Alston is singing a different tune these days.

The county, largely at Alston’s behest, has spent $300,000 on a diversity study, shelled out more money for new county software that tracks MWBE participation at a highly detailed level, hired new MWBE Director Shaunne Thomas (pictured above), and, in one fell swoop earlier this year, added five new positions to the MWBE Department that previously only had three positions.

The county recently held its first major public MWBE event under the new structure, and Alston called the event highly successful and said it was a clear sign that Guilford County was finally on the right MWBE track.

“Shaunne Thomas had an excellent program this past Monday at Barber Park with East Greensboro Now,” a beaming Alston said at the Thursday, April 20 commissioners meeting.  “She had vendors there; she had contractors there. It was a great, great event.”

“That’s what we are looking for in our MWBE director – to include the community as far as business with the county,” Alston added. “Hat’s off to Shaunne Thomas.”

Alston told the Rhino Times recently that after years and years of neglect, it’s very heartening to see the county finally take MWBE issues seriously.