When minority business developers see a light at the end of the tunnel, they assume it’s just another train. Of course, business is tough for everybody right now. with white businessmen, who have all the advantages, contacts, and the full resources of the GOB (good-old-boy) network, going under left and right. No wonder Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce executive director Tom Houston sounds a little bleak.
“There were probably more minority contract opportunities ten or eleven years ago than there are now,” Houston says. “A lot of it is due to the downturn in the economy-but more than that, it’s due to the continuing reluctance of agencies and corporations to do business with minorities.”
Nationally, almost one-third of the minority businesses aided by the Small Business Administration turn belly up and die-and another 22 percent aren’t feeling so well. Even those measures designed to protect minority businessmen sometimes work against them. In the early and mid-Eighties, there was widespread documentation of “white fraud”-majority white businessmen setting up “front” operations listing black employees (sometimes janitorial help) as minority owners of shadow businesses. So government agencies with minority contracts have set up systems to check and double-check claims of “minority business,” Good idea. But for small businesses already having a hard time, documentation is sometimes just one more hurdle. According to Pam Eudaric, a local attorney and head of the Black C of C’s Transportation Subcommittee, “Just the packet of forms and information you’re mailed is frightening. One of the things the DBC is doing is getting with accountants and businessmen to see how we can come up with a friendlier certification process.”
Eudaric is guardedly optimistic, at least with the public sector. In fiscal 1987, 9.1 percent of the $380 million in city contracts went to minority businesses; so far this year, the figure has risen to 15 percent. And Eudaric gives particularly high marks to DART, which has doubled the percentage of minority contracts since adopting a new affirmative action plan this spring. DART’s guidelines call for a goal of 25 percent for minorities and women.