Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of stories on the plight of minority contractors who try to get work on major construction projects.
BY JAMES HARPER
DAYTONA TIMES STAFF
Saying there are no Volusia County minority contractors is not an excuse Daytona International Speedway officials can use when they begin work on a $250 million dollar renovation project later this year.
Sixty-six minority firms are listed on Florida’s Office of Supplier Diversity website.
On the website, 13 Blacks, 14 Hispanic and 38 women companies are certified as contractors – from construction companies, financial services providers, consultants and suppliers of materials.
Statewide there are 1,190 Black, 1551 Hispanic and 3,747 women businesses that are certified by the state and can be located through the Office of Supplier Diversity website.
The Office of Supplier Diversity (OSD) was created in 1996.
Mission of OSD
Ben Wolf, director of Communications for the Florida Department of Management Services, which oversees OSD, said the mission of the OSD is to promote equity in state contracting for small, minority, women, service disabled veterans and wartime veteran business enterprises.
There are thousands of other minority businesses across the state that may be qualified to work on such a large project that are not listed.
“Vendors submit a certification request with information required by DMS (Department of Management Services). Our Office of Supplier Diversity receives the request and confirms that the vendor meets the qualifications for certification,” Wolf explained.
Wolf said vendors on the OSD list are registered under a specific commodity code and are notified of a potential bid opportunity that exceeds $35,000. There is no designated preference for public or private projects.
Impact of bill
Daytona Speedway President Joie Chitwood III announced last month that the organization wants to do a complete overhaul of the Speedway’s frontstretch grandstands, from creating an iconic entrance to the facility that includes escalators to the stands, football-field-length “neighborhoods’’ that include video screens, bars and themed restaurants and new and more comfortable seating as well as the addition of more restrooms and concession stands.
The future of the Speedway’s renovation project hinges on if state legislators pass a bill, submitted by Florida State Rep. David Santiago, that could potentially add up to millions of dollars of tax breaks for the Speedway.
If the bill is passed as is, there are no conditions that would encourage or force the Speedway to exercise diversity and hire minority contractors to help begin and complete the project.
This is because of Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s One Florida initiative, which has a race-neutral requirement involving state construction projects.
Santiago said in reference to the Speedway hiring minority contractors he wants to make sure everybody has equal access.
“I want to find places for people to work. The more and more people who work is better for the economy. I believe in investing dollars where we can put people back to work,” he said.
“You always have people that prosper. Not everybody plays fair.’’
At one time in the state, percentage goals for minority participation were used in purchasing contracts in some state agencies.
When the race-neutral requirement began, opponents of the race-neutral component, such as the state’s NAACP said people doing the hiring for state and private construction projects “hire based on friendship, what you look like, where you live, usually leaving Blacks and other minorities out of the mix.”
Judge Stephen Mickle, a Black federal judge, found Florida’s law setting minority participation goals for state contracts unconstitutional, saying it violates the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
Wolf said “One Florida,” which forbids minority set asides and quotas, encourages the state to explore all opportunities to contract with minority- and women-owned business.
Daytona Speedway officials will have to be pressured into hiring minority contractors to be part of their $250 million renovation project, Orlando Attorney Veronica Anderson told the Daytona Times earlier this month.
What bill does
Santiago said he was approached by Speedway officials to file a bill seeking sales tax refunds and rebates contingent on the Speedway, investing at least $250 million of its money in the overhaul over a four-year period.
The legislator said he wrote the 17-page measure with input from Speedway officials.
If passed, the Speedway would be reimbursed for the sales tax spent on building materials for the construction. That would be a one-time refund. For the next 30 years, the Speedway would receive up to $2 million annually in sales tax rebates for sales at the Speedway.
The bill has to go through several committees then come up for discussion and a vote in the state House and Senate.
State Senator Dorothy Hukill filed a companion bill for the Senate.
Initially it appeared unusual that Santiago was asked to write the bill for the Speedway, considering the entertainment complex is located in Rep. Dwayne Taylor’s district.
Santiago, a Republican who lives in Deltona, told the Daytona Times in a recent interview that the first person he contacted after he was approached to file the bill was Taylor, who is a Black Democrat. Taylor lives in Daytona Beach.
Taylor was first elected to the Florida House in 2008 and has been re-elected ever since compared to Santiago who began his first term as a legislator last November.
He said Taylor immediately agreed to co-sponsor the bill.
Santiago said he was aware that the construction project was taking place in “Dwayne’s backyard, but I had a bill slot” to fill.
“I see he (Taylor) has a great relationship with the Speedway,” Santiago noted, elaborating that he doesn’t believe there was anything personal as to why he was asked to file the bill and not Taylor.
Taylor ready to help
When contacted by the Daytona Times on Santiago filing the bill for the Speedway, Taylor agreed that since Republicans control both the Florida House and Senate, it would be easier to get the bill passed because Santiago filed it.
He also noted that all his bill slots were taken.
“I filled bills in November. My slots were already committed,” Taylor said.
As far as amending Santiago’s bill so there is a minority set aside, Taylor said they’ve tried doing that on related bill with no success adding, “It’s not on any of the other bills passed related to sports franchises seeking tax breaks.”
Taylor said when the bill is presented on the floor of the House he will talk about minority participation on the construction project and will ask that people who live in Daytona Beach and surrounding cities be given preference and more consideration than anyone else.
He said Speedway officials told him 4,000 jobs will be created as a result of the renovation project and he received a commitment from them that they will be hiring minorities.
Taylor said he knows a number of minority contractors and will be introducing them to Speedway officials.
“I am going to work with the Speedway to hire minorities and locals before they (Speedway) branch out (to hire others),” he said, adding that he cannot dictate who they hire but will encourage who they should hire.
Taylor said he is aware that many local minority contractors may not have capital or the necessary equipment or be able to get bonded for some of the contracts that will be offered.
Nevertheless, Taylor said he will work to locate those that can do the work.
“Black people need to show up if they want to be part of the process,” Taylor concluded.
Attorney: Apply pressure
Santiago said he would engage in a conversation with track officials about a minority set aside and research the history on similar bills like he is filing for the Speedway to see if there is any political and private support for such an amendment to his bill.
He said he at least wants the Speedway to guarantee that local contractors play a role in the expansion.
Orlando Attorney Anderson said in a Daytona Times article two weeks ago that if the Black community wants jobs on the Speedway project, they must put pressure on elected officials, pack city commission and county council meetings and contact their state representatives and senators, all of whom have a role or will have a role in the project getting off the ground.
In an recent interview, Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry, who is Black, didn’t comment on whether the Speedway should be encouraged or forced to hire a certain percentage of minorities for their construction project but did say, “I think it’s no more than fair that the Speedway gets the same tax benefit those other sporting events receive.”
“Furthermore the economic impact of their proposed plans will be positive and are consistent with my hopes that the private sector leads the way in our local economic recovery,” Henry added.
Volusia County Councilman Joshua Wagner, who represents the bulk of Daytonans living in the county also shied away from suggesting a minority set aside for the Speedway construction project.
“I am glad to see a bill filed that supports our local community. It would be prudent of the Legislature to help increase tourism in Daytona Beach and Volusia County,” Wagner told the Times.
‘Workforce composition’ condition
The Speedway already has received support from the City of Daytona Beach and the Volusia County Council with no strings attached, such as a “workforce composition” condition.
This workforce composition – which could mean the Speedway must hire a percentage of minorities or set a goal of hiring such minorities – could take place when Speedway officials go back to the city for permits, said Deputy City Manager Paul McKitrick. But he noted the political will for commissioners to attach such a condition may not be there.
Next week: Minority contractor Anderson Hill, formerly of Daytona Beach, shares his experiences acquiring work on major projects.