|2014 A Difficult Year For Black Businesses in Charleston
12/31/2014 11:23:01 AM
The $80 million Midtown project in downtown Charleston symbolizes the economic boom that is transforming the region. But for African American owned businesses, that symbol meant little in 2014.
African American business participation in that project and others around the region are underrepresented despite acclamations by some that minority participation is significant.
In 2013 Skansa/Trident JV recently awarded to Horus Construction Managers of Tampa, Fla., the largest contract to a minority owned firm ($13.4 million) given a Black-owned firm in the history of the state or City of Charleston, said Minority Business Enterprise Office Director Theron Snype.
The contract for plastering, drywall and masonry work in the $142 million Gailliard Auditorium reconstruction project represents a game-breaking event for the company that could take it to the next level in the construction arena, Snype said.
Although construction in the area tops billions of dollars worth of economic development, the $13 million contract to Horus Construction Managers is significant because it means the second generation African American-owned business will have the experience of performing in a major project that enhances its portfolio and makes it competitive on the larger scale, Snype said.
But those contracts are not being awarded in the private sector or in other government projects.
It is those kinds of contracts minority business advocates for the Charleston International Airport redevelopment project lack, but they say the potential for increased minority business participation will come in the future.
Last year the Charleston International Airport generated about $30 million in revenue. And four years ago it started a five-year, nearly $200 million redevelopment project to renovate the 29-year-old facility. The project is slated for completion by the fall of 2015. Minority business participation in both aspects has been marginal.
Minority business participation in construction project is about 24 percent of the $146 million already spent. The airport has contracted no minority vendors in its daily operations.
While the region’s booming construction activities represent opportunities for minority business participation some local small minority owned businesses found 2014 a most difficult year. Gullah Cuisine, the area’s most prominent Black owned soul food restaurant in October closed its doors.
Small minority owned businesses have all but disappeared from the Charleston peninsula and despite exponential business growth and expansion in North Charleston, such businesses are all but invisible. All in all, 2014 was a difficult year for Black business.