Most Guilford County employees work in Guilford County-owned buildings, however, since June of 2022, some employees of the county’s MWBE Department have worked out of the Nussbaum Center for Entrepreneurship at 1451 S. Elm-Eugene St.

Now, a deal between the county and the Nussbaum Center – one expected to be cemented this week – will put the entire department at the Nussbaum Center for at least three years.

The county will pay the Nussbaum Center about $140,000 over the next three years for the privilege.

Not that many years ago, the county’s MWBE “department” wasn’t even a department – it was one assistant director in the county’s Purchasing Department who did her best to see that the county maximized its use of minority and women-owned businesses.

However, in recent years, that department has grown to seven employees and has become one of the most powerful departments in the county.  Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Skip Alston, who ultimately calls all the shots in Guilford County government, is a big backer of the MWBE department and has seen to it that it has plenty of staff and plenty of pull.

One year ago, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, out of the blue, made the stunning move of adding five new county positions to the department, which nearly tripled the size of the department overnight.

Paperwork for the Nussbaum deal suggests the MWBE Department isn’t going to stop growing. One reason given for the three-year lease at the Nussbaum Center is that it, “Allows space for growth of the MWBE team without any additional cost to upfit space.”

That’s worrisome to some who argue that the county is already pumping too much time and money into the effort.  In the 2020-2021 fiscal year budget, the efforts to use more minority and women owned businesses were still listed as a line under “County Administration” with a cost of about $170,000.  The 2021-2022 adopted county budget called for taxpayers to spend $385,000 for a full-fledged Guilford County MWBE Department. In the fiscal 2023-2024 Guilford County budget, the cost of the county’s MWBE efforts came to a total of $1,566,976.

Another reason for the new deal with the center is that it frees up county-owned space at 201 S. Greene St. as well as the associated parking spots.

At the Nussbaum Center, clients and employees will have easy access to free parking.

Advocates of the move also argue that it will be good for county businesses to have a “one-stop shop” for the county’s  MWBE resources. They also point out that over 70 percent of the tenants currently at the Nussbaum Center are MWBEs.

The deal will also mean there will be plenty of room to host and co-host meetings and trainings.

The monthly rent will be right at $4,000 to lease 3,200 square feet at the per square foot price of $14.77.  The rent deal includes utilities and routine maintenance.