The Greensboro City Council had a lengthy discussion on the proposed contract to fund Downtown Greensboro Inc. (DGI) at the meeting on Tuesday, June 15.
While the vast majority of the $620 million budget was passed on June 15 without any comment, the three-year, $3 million contract with DGI didn’t fare as well.
Eventually the City Council voted 8-1 to approve contract with DGI to oversee downtown activities for the City of Greensboro for three years, with Councilmember Sharon Hightower voting no.
As one might expect from this City Council, the discussion was not about the work that DGI does or if contracting DGI was the best use of the funds raised by the additional tax on the Downtown Business Improvement District that provides most of the funding for DGI.
The discussion or the accusation was that DGI didn’t use a high enough percentage of Minority and Women’s Business Enterprise (MWBE) subcontractors.
This City Council, after being elected in 2017, has discussed MWBE contract percentages far more than any other topic, so the discussion was in keeping with the actual priorities of the current City Council.
It appeared that DGI President Zack Matheny had a reasonable answer for not using more MWBE subcontractors.
Matheny said, “We don’t subcontract a whole lot. What you’ve got is an organization that is minimally staffed and very high in productivity.”
He added, “We just don’t subcontract. We produce.”
Matheny said that the primary subcontractor that DGI used was Sharpe Pursuits Inc. to produce Fun Fourth and the Festival of Lights and that Sharpe Pursuits was an MWBE company.
Matheny said that the only other contract with DGI was to paint murals downtown and that was with a company owned by a woman.
Matheny said, “All the subcontracting we have done is female or minority owned during the past five years.”
Councilmember Sharon Hightower said, “I’m hung up on this. I’m not sure what that $1 million is going to get us. Some kind of contracting that comes along with that.”
Councilmember Michelle Kennedy said that if the MWBE process was required then DGI should have to go through the MWBE goal setting process.
Assistant City Manager Kim Sowell said, “This does not go through goal setting. This was voluntarily provided.”
Kennedy said, “Honestly, I think this is a problem at the city level.”
Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter noted that when this contract went out for bids the only bidder was DGI, which didn’t give the city a lot of options.