Study: Minority, Women-Owned Businesses Underutilized for State Projects

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Minority businesses are angry and frustrated they're not getting business from the state, and a state study shows they're at a disadvantage.

It indicates predominately white male companies are getting over used.

State officials addressed some minority business owners Sunday afternoon, in an event scheduled by the NAACP. The study was done by an independent group at the request of the Commonwealth.

Now, state officials are trying to figure out how to help those getting left out, get business. The 2-year study, 700 page report boils down to this.

"There was under-utilization in the Hispanic community, the African-American community, the Asian community, and there was under-utilization in the category of non-minority women," said Lee Brazzell, a member of the group who compiled the study, performed by MGT of America and Transportation.

The news came as no surprise to minority developer Willie Earl Bradley. He has a hard time securing work from Virginia.

"In order for you to realize that I have the capability, you have to first have the opportunity," said Bradley. "So, if you've never been given the opportunity to show yourself, then how can you say I can't do it when I've never been given the opportunity?"

Study developers say the numbers strongly favor white male business owners and the reasons for that ranges from structural issues to availability of resources.

"If you're a small business owner, it's very difficult sometimes to spend the time to write massive proposals," said Brazzell. "Versus a company who already has someone on staff who can do the research or can do estimating or to be able to write proposals."

State officials say they want to help small businesses and minority businesses succeed.

"If we're able to help them contract with the state, that will in turn help them hire more people for their businesses," explained Lisa Hicks-Thomas, Secretary of Administration for the Commonwealth. "Which means there are more people employed, more tax revenue. So, it's just a win-win for the state."

They're counting on the study to figure out how to help.

"Whether they were having problems getting the information, whether they were having problems like for bonding, access to capital, and that just gives us a way to kind of address these problems," said Hicks-Thomas.

"Somewhere you have to level the playing field so small business can grow," added Brazzell. "I think there's no doubt in anyone's mind that the future of America is based off of small businesses growing."

Lisa Hicks-Thomas also told NBC12 the Governor's office plans to hire a Director of Supplier Diversity to advocate for small business and minority or women owned businesses.

The Commonwealth is also reviewing other recommendations presented in the study.

Copyright 2011 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.