Black contractors want piece of the pie

April 26, 2013 in Local News, News

Journal Managing Editor

Theodis Shelmon, right, owner of Shelmon Concrete Company Inc., and Art Taylor, a representative of J&J Flooring Inc., are black businessmen who want to help build houses in the Legacy Homes project in the central city.

Two Toledo black businessmen say they are tired of riding by central city construction sites and minority workers are not plying their trades.
Some of the projects are government funded and it’s mandated that minorities are included, they say.
The Douglas Company, a general contractor, based in Holland, Ohio, will start building houses in the Cherry Street Legacy area, which is near Cherry, Collingwood and Fulton streets.
Black contractors Art Taylor and Theodis Shelmon say it’s time to include minorities on the project.
“This is long overdue, as far as having no participation,” said Taylor, a representative of J&J Flooring Inc.
“There’s no inclusion,” said Shelmon, owner of Shelmon Concrete Company Inc. “No one is fighting for us to have inclusion. We are qualified or they wouldn’t have sent us an invitation to bid. They are not sharing too much information.”
Most of the time, general contractors feel as though they have done their job when they made a good faith effort to reach out to minority businesses and give them blue prints of a project, Taylor said.
“We should be getting something out of this,” he said.
Taylor has more than 35 years of experience and Shelmon has poured concrete for the last 30 years.
Marty Larnhart, senior director of business development for The Douglas Company, said Taylor and Shelmon are correct for wanting to minorities working on the project.
“There will be minorities,” Larnhart said. “That’s what is required by law.”
The Douglas Group is trying to get the project within a budget not to exceed $10 million for 40 family homes, he said.
“We will hit all of the requirements,” Larnhart said. “It’s the law and is the right thing to do.”
The Douglas Group has and will talk to minority contractors about including them, he said.
“Hopefully, (the project) will start by June,” Larnhart said. It should take 10 months to complete, he said.
City Councilwoman Paula Hicks-Hudson, who represents District 4 where crews will build the houses, said she and City Councilman Tyrone Riley have begun asking questions about central city projects and in particular, what are contractors doing to hire people in the neighborhoods.
“We will do what we can to try to help,” Hicks-Hudson said. “They need to have people who look like them and give them opportunities to get skills and make money. We need to pull folks in now to start dialogue and have conversation.”
Riley agrees.
“If this is a city project I would expect the community to be represented,” he said. “If there are no minorities on the project there is a problem.
“The city has a program of inclusion of all groups; minorities and women. And to not be represented on this or all projects, there is a problem. Something is wrong. It’s unfair. We have families to support and children to educate just like everybody else.”
Taylor said he appealed to city officials and the public to make the community aware their help is needed to get minorities working on the projects.
“It’s not that we are not qualified or not bidding,” Taylor said. “Our cause is to get jobs so that we can put our youth to work.”
Other minority contractors said they wouldn’t bid because they knew they wouldn’t get any work, Taylor said. A minority landscaping company was the only other to submit a bid, he said.
Taylor said the community, in particular, City Council members can intervene.
“They can make it happen,” he said. “They can force meetings.”
Taylor said millions of dollars are coming into Toledo are targeted for depressed areas. Youth are suffering from high unemployment, and African Americans are hit higher than other groups, he said.
The Journal left repeated messages with Perlean Griffin, director of the Office of Affirmative Action/Contract Compliance, for comment. None were returned.
The city’s website says the office is an educational, advocacy and compliance agency whose major function is to ensure regulations are followed to meet contract compliance objectives and to certify and promote minority and women-owned businesses to comply with the Mayor’s Executive Order concerning disadvantaged businesses.