BY JAMES HARPER
Black, Hispanic or female business owners would like to do work on major construction projects. They just have to figure out how to get in the door.
Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood announced last month that $250 million will be spent for 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.
In addition, the redevelopment would see every seat in the Speedway frontstretch replaced with new and more comfortable seating as well as the addition of more restrooms and concession stands within easier access points for all fans.
Will the Speedway identify and work with minority-owned contractors, suppliers, etc.?
Orlando Attorney Veronica Anderson of Anderson and Associates told the Daytona Times this week that she is worried the money the Speedway is planning to spend already has been earmarked for contractors who are not minorities.
“That’s planning. They decide who is going to do contracting. They already have budget for construction. They have already made a lot of commitments,” said Anderson whose firm is recognized in Florida as a leader in small, disadvantaged, minority and women business enterprise consulting.
Some of the legal representation that the firm provides is as legal counsel to governmental entities with Minority and Women Business Enterprise (M/WBE), Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) and race neutral Small Business Enterprise (SBE) programs.
Largest usually hired
Considering the Daytona Speedway is a private company, Anderson said that unless government funds require that it includes minority businesses, the largest companies are hired to get the job done.
When the Speedway was working on its “Daytona Live” project three years ago, Anderson was brought in by one of the contractors hired by the Speedway. She said it was her job to do community outreach to prospective minority contractors located in the Greater Daytona Beach area.
“Apparently there was a discrimination lawsuit filed by an employee (against the International Speedway Corporation). Under the stress of that, the city was asking them (the Speedway) to do outreach. The contractor brought me on,” said Anderson.
Anderson said the contractor wanted to identify contractors who could do work for the developer on the construction site which was to include construction of retail stores, a movie theater and restaurants on property owned by the Speedway on the northside of International Speedway Boulevard.
‘Put pressure on’
Anderson said she discovered there were a lot of small companies in Daytona Beach that might not have enough capital to do a big job as well as might have problems getting bonded.
She said her assignment ended because the economy went south and the project was put on hold.
“The community has to put the pressure on. The community has to say you are getting our tax dollars and you need to include us. The community should demand that Black people get jobs and contracts,” Anderson said.
Anderson also said Black subcontractors will hire Black workers. “Not that they don’t hire Whites. When you hire a minority firm, they are willing to hire ex-offenders, give people a second chance,” she noted.
“Pack a city council (meeting). (Tell them) We want a written commitment.
If we are not ready, we want assistance in getting ready. City commissioners can put pressure on them (Speedway). They can become publicly exposed and their consciences pricked. They can waive the bond,” Anderson added. “They (businesses) put barriers up that minority businesses cannot get over. Somebody like me has to be on the inside (to tell Speedway), if you make the contract this size you have eliminated all of them.’’
No mention of minorities
Chitwood made the announcement about the overhaul of the frontstretch after he and other Speedway staff received approval from the city of Daytona Beach and Volusia County government in January to proceed with the project.
He also noted during a press conference last month that the Speedway is willing to commit at least $250 million if the state Legislature agrees to give the track tax breaks that already apply to the NFL, MLB and other major sports in Florida.
Though Chitwood and others boasted about how many jobs will be created as a result of the project, there was no mention of any guarantee that Blacks and other minorities will receive any contracts to complete the project.
Daytona Beach Deputy City Manager Paul McKitrick told the Daytona Times in a recent interview the Speedway approached the city last summer about rezoning the Speedway property south of International Speedway Boulevard and property located on the northside of ISB.
McKitrick said rezoning was done separately for the northside and southside properties.
“Most of the track is owned by Volusia County. The northside is owned by ISC or one of its subsidiaries,” he noted.
In a statement released by the Speedway, Chitwood said “the review and unanimous approval of our Planned Master Development Application by the City Commission of Daytona Beach . . . is a major milestone in the pursuit of a potential significant redevelopment of Daytona International Speedway.”
“Both projects create the potential for a vibrant development at the gateway to our community with positive economic benefits to the region,” Chitwood continued.
“With this approval, we now can begin the work of developing the project details and evaluating numerous factors that will affect our plans,” he said.
Chitwood and the Speedway are awaiting approval of a bill submitted by Florida State Rep. David Santiago, which asked for a number of tax breaks Chitwood said the project would be contingent on if the project goes forward as planned.
If all goes as the Speedway wants, they then must go back before the city commissioners for permits.
If the Speedway comes before the city requesting permits for construction with something radically different, McKitrick said the Speedway might have to go before the planning board again.
‘No strict requirements’
McKitrick said currently there is nothing in writing that would force or encourage the Speedway to hire minority contractors.
“We’ve done it for city properties but there were no strict requirements.
“They (the Speedway will) pay the same fees any contractor will pay – water, sewer and impact fee,” Mckitrick noted.
In South Florida, which has a heavy Hispanic population, McKitrick said it is not uncommon for elected officials to have a “workforce composition” condition pertaining to public and private construction projects.
McKitrick said he does not know if there is the political will by Daytona Beach elected officials to have such a “workforce composition” attached to the Speedway property.
Chitwood was asked about jobs for minorities during the press conference by the Daytona Times. He sidestepped the question.
‘New front door’
He said he hopes to begin renovations “as soon as possible’’ to the 53-year-old structure that an independent study says provides a $1.6 billion yearly economic impact to the state.
Chitwood said the plan he takes to the International Speedway Corporation for final approval would have to be adjusted if the tax break isn’t provided.
He added that the ultimate goal is to create a “new front door’’ for a Daytona Beach community that he said hosts 8 million tourists a year.
The proposed project is subject to approval by senior management of the International Speedway Corporation (ISC), which owns the Daytona International Speedway, pending several economic stability factors as well as construction design and costs.