Minority-owned businesses are winning a greater share of the awards for the Dayton Metro Library’s $187 million building project, quieting some criticism about the underutilization of such firms.
Over the summer, Dayton Commissioners Jeffrey Mims Jr. and Joey Williams voiced displeasure with the library’s system-wide construction project for falling short of its business participation goal for minority-owned enterprises.
But the project’s minority participation level was better than first reported, and the project is close to meeting the inclusion goal.
Mims praised library administration for listening to the commissioners’ concerns and working hard on the issue.
“I won’t be satisfied until everyone who needs a job has a job,” he said with a laugh, “but we’re satisfied because it’s a very difficult thing and we’ve made some improvement.”
The library’s goal is to award 17 percent of construction spending to minority-owned firms.
But in July, the library reported that only about 3.9 percent of the phase 1 contracting and subcontracting awards went to these firms.
However, the information was incomplete and not all subcontracting awards were represented in the preliminary estimate, library officials said.
As of Oct. 6, about $5.9 million of the $56.4 million of segment 1 work went to minority-owned firms, or 10.6 percent, according to updated estimates.
Segment 2 of the project is under way, and the library’s minority participation numbers have shown additional improvement.
The library has or soon expects to award about $9.7 million in bids. About $1.5 million — or 15.7 percent — has gone or is anticipated to go to minority-owned firms.
Also, the building project is meeting most of its other inclusion goals, including those for women-owned and local businesses.
Tim Kambitsch, the library’s executive director, credits the improvement to working with the general contractors to ensure they understand the importance of meeting the inclusion goals.
“They understood our desire to include (these firms) was as important as having the low bid,” he said.
The first segment of the building project had large and complex construction jobs, and the library broke the work into many contracts, partly to get the best possible pricing, Kambitsch said.
The smaller projects in segment 2 and future phases make it easier to work with the general contractor and ensure they adhere to the library’s wishes for inclusion and find subcontractors that meet those goals, Kambitsch said. The library changed its approach to bidding.
“The nature of the projects allows us to put that responsibility on the shoulders of the general contractors who are bidding,” he said. “We spent a lot of time and effort to get this right.”
By law, the library cannot require contractors to meet inclusion goals and it must select the lowest, responsible bid.
The library took steps that evidently have helped address the minority participation issues raised by commissioners, said Mims.
Ideally, minority business participation on the project would exceed 17 percent, but the Dayton area has a shortage of firms that fall into this category and that speaks to the region’s need to increase capacity in this respect, Mims said.
Mims said the local community voted to support the library construction project and their tax dollars are paying for it.
He said it is only fair that local and minority firms receive a significant share of the construction spending. He pointed out that Dayton has a large minority population. The city is about 43 percent black.
“I think we are satisfied that there is movement in the right direction,” Mims said.