Ray Nagin and minority-owned businesses in New Orleans
From now on, companies that seek subsidies or tax waivers from New Orleans city agencies will be required to work with local and minority-owned businesses under an executive order signed by Mayor Ray Nagin last month.
The new requirement, which the Nagin administration characterized as an expansion of existing goals to advance disadvantaged businesses, is meant to ensure that small businesses will have opportunities to participate in the rebuilding of New Orleans, Nagin said Monday at a news conference at Baker Ready Mix, an African-American owned concrete company on Frenchmen Street.
"Any community in America that is thriving and growing has small businesses that are doing well," Nagin said.
Judith Williams, who helped head a committee Nagin formed to chart a course for his second term, said the order targets companies that seek city subsidies or waivers for private projects, such as a property tax waiver or a request that the city build infrastructure at a certain site.
The goal set by the executive order, which extends for three years, calls for any company that gets public financing, incentives or subsidies to use local businesses for at least 50 percent of its subcontracts. Of those, the order calls for 35 percent to be with small businesses that are "economically disadvantaged," a city certification that typically targets minority-owned or women-owned small companies.
Exactly what these requirements will involve will be determined by Donna Addkison, the mayor's executive assistant for economic development, housing and planning. She will establish the process for determining what will be required of individual companies, Williams said.
The subcontracting requirement on individual projects will be figured based on how many New Orleans companies exist in the "relevant market sector," according to the order.
Williams said the order will not apply to public money or tax credits doled out by state or federal agencies, which control the bulk of rebuilding money through the Gulf Opportunity Zone tax credits or Community Development Block Grants.
"We can't force the state to abide by the policy," Williams said. "But hopefully we can set the example for the state to follow."
Although it will not apply to state-controlled dollars, Williams said the order should have far-reaching implications because it will affect companies that ask for waivers of fees or taxes, as well as those that get bonding assistance from local boards, such as the New Orleans Building Corp., the agency charged with increasing the city's revenue from some of its unused or under-used properties.
Previously, City Hall only required prime contractors to work with economically disadvantaged businesses when the companies got a direct contracts from a city agency.
In recent weeks, Nagin also signed another executive order that requires the city to come up with a "forecast" to inform businesses about the kind of city contracts that will be going out to bid. This will help smaller companies stay on top of the opportunities provided by the city's constant need to purchase services or goods from the private sector, officials said.
A third executive order requires that any project that uses city money or qualifies for city waivers of taxes or fees be assessed for how it might affect the environment, particularly in predominately minority communities. The order calls on the chief administrative office and City Planning Commission to come up with an "environmental justice" policy and regulations that will deal with this issue.
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