BY JAMES HARPER
A spokesman for the Daytona International Speedway has told the Daytona Times that the organization intends to implement a coordinated community outreach program, including advertising, trade fairs, training and meet-and-greet opportunities, to ensure all qualified local women and minority firms can participate in their $250 million redevelopment project.
Over the past weeks, the Times has published stories on the plight of minority contractors who try to participate in major construction projects like the one the Daytona International Speedway (DIS) is planning on the front stretch of its complex.
Lenny Santiago, senior director of public relations of the Daytona International Speedway (DIS) said the project is contingent on the Daytona Redevelopment project getting tax breaks from the state and approval from the International Speedway Corporation (ISC) management and NASCAR.
Santiago said DIS hopes to go before ISC senior management for approval of the renovation project later this year. He noted that details of the renovation have been shared with all sanctioning bodies and partners, including NASCAR.
“We have worked with minority and women business enterprises in the past on other initiatives. We believe this project would represent a significant potential boost to our local economy, creating thousands of construction jobs. If our project is approved, we will be happy to discuss those outreach efforts further,” Santiago added.
The Speedway’s decision to commit to hiring minorities was welcome news to former Daytona Beach resident Anderson Hill, who now is a successful contractor based out of Orlando. Hill’s company is HZ Construction.
Diversity at executive levels
Hill said as a private company the Speedway can create a goal to ensure diversity in the award of all contracts from executive and professional levels to subcontractors.
He said companies such as the Speedway must embrace the concept of full participation of minority contractors at all levels.
“There must be diversity and inclusion at the executive levels for construction and professional design companies as well as at the subcontracting level. HZ Construction has benefited from being a part of the senior construction management team, where decisions are made,” Hill explained.
Worked on Amway Center
Hill’s company played a major role in the construction of the Amway Center in Orlando.
“HZ set a national record for the total dollars awarded to minority- and women-owned businesses for the construction of a municipal-owned building,” he stated.
“More than $90 million went to these businesses as part of our scope of work. This would not have happened if the owner, the City of Orlando, had not developed a blueprint plan for participation of all businesses, and not just purchasing from majority-owned businesses.’’
Daytona Speedway President Joie Chitwood III announced in February that DIS wants to do a complete overhaul of the Speedway’s front stretch 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.
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.
In an interview with the Times, Santiago said the bill has received approval from the Finance & Tax Subcommittee and is currently in the Economic Affairs Committee. It will next go to the Appropriations Committee.
Companion bill in Senate
Santiago said a companion bill filed by State Senator Dorothy Hukil is going through a similar process and once the different chambers pass both bills a compromised bill will be reached. He is optimistic the bills will pass both chambers this legislative session.
Hill said the state could make non-binding suggestions to encourage the Speedway to produce a blueprint for a diversity policy.
“When the state creates exemptions from certain taxes, then from the taxpayers prospective, this is another cost or expense, because those revenue tax dollars will have to come from some where or government programs suffer. Therefore, the Speedway because of favorable legislation (or not) should distribute its tax savings back to all who will have to pay for it,” Hill explained.
Hill said the diversity programs implemented should be all inclusive from human resources, conceptual designs, construction, closeouts, operations and modifications.
“Hopefully, the Speedway will release what has its philosophies and results have been with diversity. I hope this information is requested and received before any assistance decisions are made,” Hill said.
Hill: Request meetings
Hill said minority companies must publicly unite and request outreach meetings from the Speedway immediately.
“We must request substantive and critical documentation that proves the stated M/WBE (minority/women business enterprise) position, that opportunities have not been reasonably afforded, when the Speedway and other majority (White) businesses are benefiting from MWBE tax dollars,” Hill added.
“Regardless of where the tax dollars come from, then as a taxpaying citizen, my business deserves equal and fair opportunities when any entity receives federal, state and local tax benefits,” he said.
Hill said his company is willing to conduct outreach meetings to publicly discuss how to inquire and benefit from this large expansion.
“The Speedway can use existing certification programs as an preliminary implementation methodologically. Outreach meetings are essential at this developmental stage,” Hill noted.
Hill also said Daytona Beach and Volusia County should make sure the Speedway gives minority businesses an opportunity to participate in the renovation project from the planning stages to the construction/project closeout.