Guilford County Commissioner Skip Alston made a formal request at the Board of Commissioners Thursday, March 21 meeting for Guilford County Manager Marty Lawing to bring back, within 30 days, the details and cost of a comprehensive disparity study. That study would assess the availability in the county of black-owned businesses that Guilford County could use to fill its construction contracts, service contracts and other needs.
Earlier this month, Alston estimated that the price tag might be $300,000 based on similar studies elsewhere. He instructed Lawing to find out what was involved and he told his fellow commissioners that it was well worth the money.
“It’s not to give our contracts to African-Americans,” Alston said at the March 21 meeting. “It’s to conduct a study to see whether or not we have any African-American brick masons out there who can do the work – how many electricians, how many plumbers …”
Alston and the two other black county commissioners have been upset lately that the county awarded a $12-million construction contract to a Winston-Salem based firm that plans on using virtually no black-owned companies in the project.
Alston said a legal decision in a Virginia court now paved the way for providing local governments with more flexibility in the bid process – if that government has conducted a disparity study that tells exactly what minority-centric area resources are available for use on the projects.
Alston added that the study would also help Guilford County avoid lawsuits in the future and would give the commissioners a lot of ammunition to respond with if any company came to the county and said they simply couldn’t find any black firms to help do the work.
“If it cost us $300,000 or whatever, it’s well worth it,” Alston said of the study. “It might be $500,000 – I don’t know, but, whatever the cost is, I want to know how many African-Americans out there can do the work right now.”