Minority firms seek county work

A group that represents African-American construction businesses wants Sedgwick County to create a program to ensure that they get a piece of county work.

United Builders and Contractors met with commissioners and county staff on Tuesday, urging leaders to create a disadvantaged-business development program similar to one being discussed in the Kansas Senate.

"We believe it is important that all segments of a community benefit from the expenditure of public dollars for goods and services," United Builders chairman Eugene Anderson said.

Anderson said United Builders had made two other formal presentations to commissioners but "to date nothing has happened. No plan has been brought forth to address the disparity in Sedgwick County's purchase of goods and services."

Of about $223 million in goods and serviced purchased by the county in 2008, 3.39 percent went to disadvantaged businesses, including those owned by African-Americans, Asians, Hispanics, American Indians, people with disabilities, veterans and women, according to information from purchasing director Iris Baker.

About $53,131 went to African-American businesses.

If you take Intrust Bank Arena out of the picture, about 5 percent of county goods and services went to disadvantaged-business owners as defined by the county.

Commissioner Gwen Welshimer said it was time for the county to do more business with minorities, women and other groups.

"I think it's just disgraceful this group would have to come to us" again, she said. "I think we should correct the problem."

Commissioner Tim Norton said he would follow Senate Bill 511 and asked staff to look into what other counties are doing.

County Manager William Buchanan noted that the county would be required to do a disparity study before implementing any "set-aside" programs for minority businesses.

Groups also have asked the city and school district for more business.