City of GR aims to incentivize use of minority, women-owned contractors
GRAND RAPIDS – The City of Grand Rapids is developing an inclusion program designed to encourage minority, women and micro-business contracting on projects that involve public investment through tax incentives.
The initiative was discussed at the city’s Economic Development Project Team meeting on September 15. Officials hope to kick off the program in the first quarter of 2021, said Jeremiah Gracia, the city’s director of economic development. The initiative is set out in the strategic plan for fair economic development in the city and is developed in cooperation with the Office for Justice and Engagement.
The program would require developers seeking tax incentives in the city to complete an inclusion scorecard that would set targets for the percentage of minority, women, and micro-business companies that they would like to take advantage of, as well as one Solicited list of contractors who would do this.
“If you don’t get the opportunity, it’s not for you,” said Jonathan Klooster, a city’s economic development coordinator. “We are trying to expand the reach of these projects so that more companies targeted by this program have the opportunity to bid on these projects.”
Although the city will evaluate developers’ goals to create a more diverse base of contractors for projects, Klooster says the city cannot set a goal for developers for legal reasons – and every project is different.
“Simply asking these questions means we are prioritizing the developers would encourage them to share this information,” said Alvin Hills IV, business developer with the city’s Justice and Engagement Bureau, who will help review the program. Hills said his office will also serve as a developer resource as part of the inclusion planning process. The inclusion program must be approved by the city commission before it starts.
“I am glad that this inclusion plan came together. I think it is long overdue and will help improve our city and the business world, ”said Commissioner Nathaniel Moody during the economic development meeting.
The program is an advancement that allows all stakeholders to get involved in the construction industry, said Isaac Norris, director, architect and owner of Isaac V. Norris & Associates PC
“It’s very important because majority-owned companies have always had an opportunity to do the job, but we as minority-run companies should be included,” said Norris. “There are definitely differences. The problem with the whole system at Grand Rapids is that it only takes time. It also takes some people in your corner to help you. “
The construction industry also tends to pass down talent across generations, and most minority-owned companies are newer startups, Norris said.
“I’m excited about this program as it enables smaller, minority-owned startups to be part of the growth and development process,” said Norris.
As a Latina-Hispanic woman, Santa Matias said it can sometimes be difficult to build trust with developers and builders on projects as a startup owner. Matias founded United Freedom Painting in Wyoming two years ago.
The company primarily specializes in interior painting for homeowners and also does a small amount of commercial work, Matias said.
“It’s something I want to pursue and I want to be a role model for other women who are of Spanish descent and who may be scared or not know where to start with all of the boundaries,” said Matias. “It shouldn’t matter what background you have to get into this business.”