For the last two decades, Guilford County government has made a concerted effort to have an acceptable Minority/Women Business Enterprise (MWBE) program – but, for most of that time, the results haven’t been good.
Over the years, Guilford County Commissioners Bruce Davis, the late Carolyn Coleman and current Chairman of the Board Skip Alston, and many others, have tried and tried to increase those numbers, but it’s been to little avail.
The struggle continues, however and on Wednesday, Dec. 14, Guilford County announced that Shaunne Thomas had been named the new director of the county’s MWBE program which works to help minority and women owned businesses get service and sales contracts with Guilford County government.
The department does everything from seeking out MWBE businesses to making sure that those business owners know about contracts out for bids. The department also helps the target firms fill out applications and holds events meant to draw MWBE businesses.
Over the years, the county has bent so far over backward to attract MWBE businesses that some commissioners – such as former Republican Guilford County Commissioner Alan Branson – have criticized the level of “hand holding” the county does.
In one heated debate at a commissioner’s retreat several years ago, Branson contended that there was a lot of work available for firms that did good work and offered competitive bids. He said that, regardless of the race or sex of the owners, if they could not be aware of bids and fill out an application then they probably weren’t the ones who should be awarded the contracts.
Now it will be Thomas’s turn to increase the percentage of MWBE participation.
Assistant County Manager Jason Jones said the county has great hopes for Thomas.
“We are excited to welcome Shaunne to the Guilford County team,” Jones stated in a Wednesday, Dec. 14 press release. “Shaunne has excellent experience and a reputation for resolving problems, improving customer satisfaction, and driving overall operational improvements. She is going to be a great leader for our M/WBE program as we work to develop stronger relationships with our partners.”
Thomas recently worked for the City of Charlotte as the Interim Compliance Manager where she was charged with implementing the Charlotte Business Inclusion Plan.
In the press release, she hinted at the strategy she’ll use in Guilford County.
“One of the hurdles in front of an MWBE firm wanting to grow and do business with a local government is often simply having the information needed to be successful in bidding opportunities, so it’s important to ensure the MWBE vendors know what opportunities are on the horizon and how to get involved in the process,” Thomas stated.
“For me, success in this program looks like more MWBE firms winning contracts,” she added. “I’m excited to get to know our MWBE community and to build out the relationships and tools needed for them to see success.”
Thomas’ achievements include assisting in the creation and implementation of the Charlotte Business Inclusion Plan, putting into place a citywide diversity and inclusion compliance tracking system as well as a certification system for minority- women- and small-businesses.
Thomas won the 2019 Director’s Choice Award for Outstanding performance, the 2019 Visionary Leader Award, the 2019 Pacesetter Leader Award, the 2018 Inspirational Leader Award and the 2017 Team Excellence Award.