INDIANAPOLIS — 2020 was a rough year for many business owners with many challenges still lingering from low staffing to supply chain disruptions.
Leaders say it’s an impact also felt among minority, women, veteran and disabled-owned businesses, or XBEs, especially when it comes to finding labor and skyrocketing material costs.
“Outside of the supply chain issues, finding people wanting to work. That would be huge right now,” said Joseph Lee, compliance officer with the OMWBD in Indianapolis, “A lot of our minority and women-owned contractors, they’re looking for employees, and some of them have been slowed down by the lack of workers and the great thing is that you don’t need experience. You can go and they can teach you.”‘
“One of the challenges that I would say some of our contractors, some of our minority contractors, experienced was access to material,” said OMWBD Interim Director and Senior Manager Fahad Bed. “In one instance, our minority contractors could not bid because they didn’t have the materials. So, it was not the fact of just being minority period, it was just the fact of supply chain disturbance overall and no one had access to these resources and material.”
As part of its year end forum, the City of Indianapolis Office of Minority and Women Business Development (OMWBD) is not just focusing on challenges from last year, but what’s ahead and how these businesses can play a role in the city’s development.
OMWBD helps qualifying businesses become certified vendors by providing analysis, resources and other tools to secure city, county, municipal and public-private partnership contract opportunities.
With several developments happening in and around the city, like Elanco and IU Health’s new hospital, leaders say there’s room for minority businesses to compete and be successful in getting these opportunities.
“Some of these folks, they’re great electricians, and plumbers, and welders and etc., but their bookkeeping skills, some of that stuff may not line up. Their estimating skills might be rusty, whatever the case is.,” he said. “So hopefully, going into 2022, we can get those folks some help, and so that they can be prepared to be bidding for a lot of these great projects that we have coming up in the city.”
Leaders say it’s about breaking down the barriers that could hinder success and connecting these businesses directly with proper resources, as well as general contractors, developers and agencies, to help educate each other on their needs, qualifications and sparking continuous collaborations.
“What we see at the city is the city has one big project, and then it goes away, and then we suddenly have another project,” said Beg. “So we keep trying to team up with the private sector to really have a more sustainable operation for these XBEs.”
“Whenever the city spends a dollar, whenever the city of Indianapolis gives a dollar, whether it’s through TIFs, grants, bond money, whatever the case is, street and road improvements for a project, is opportunity being given to minority, women, veteran and disabled owned businesses as a part of our program? And if it’s not, then we’re going to ask the question why,” said Lee. “If the city is going to spend the funds, we want them to have opportunity and it’s up to these developers and general contractors to make sure that they get opportunity.”
Numbers are also showing promise as more businesses look to take advantage of becoming OMWBD certified and accessing its resources and opportunities. That’s as business consultations with the office and certifications have significantly increased compared to recent years.
“There’s a big awareness of diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Beg. “A lot of people are trying to access our Office of Minority and Women Business Development to get their equal access. A lot of them are just discovering these resources that are out there for them.”