JEDC Close to Minority Business Policy Shortage for Hotel Spurred Push for Specific Goals

Article excerpt

********** CORRECTION December 19, 2000

The executive vice president of Adam's Mark Hotel and Resorts is Fred Kummer III. Because of a reporter's error, Kummer's name was misspelled in a story on Page D-1 Friday.

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After awarding financial incentives to developers for the past three years, the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission moved closer yesterday to adopting a minority business enterprise policy.

A two-person JEDC subcommittee recommended that a proposed minority business policy be presented to the JEDC next week for a vote.

The commission is creating a policy that will remove at least most of the uncertainty surrounding the amount of minority contracting jobs that are required for projects, such as the Adam's Mark Hotel, that receive incentives from the JEDC.

Two years ago, Mayor John Delaney and a contingent of local black ministers announced their support for the company that would construct the $124 million hotel in hopes that a considerable amount of minority contracting jobs would be awarded.

Officials of HBE, the owner of the St. Louis-based hotel chain, told Delaney and the ministers the company would award a significant number of contracting jobs to women- and minority-owned companies to build the 20-story downtown riverfront hotel.

However, no specific numeric goals were expected because the JEDC has no policy to enforce such standards.

So far, 3.1 percent, or $1.97 million, of the $65 million in contracting jobs awarded for the hotel construction were awarded to women- and minority-owned subcontractors.

The hotel, which is mostly completed, is scheduled to open Feb. 28.

No one -- even Adam's Mark Hotel officials -- is satisfied with the amount of minority contracting work that has taken place in the construction of the hotel.

"We would like to have more participation, but like the saying goes, you can lead the horse to the water, but you can't make 'em drink," said Fred Cummer III, executive vice president of Adam's Mark Hotel and Resorts, a division of HBE Corp.

Delaney is also disappointed with the numbers.

"We hoped it would be higher," he said.

Delaney, Cummer and members of the local ministers group said there was a lack of response from minority firms when bids were being accepted for contracting jobs.

In June 1998, the City Council approved $21 million of incentives for the construction of the 966-room hotel. But there were no specific minority business participation goals attached to the project.

For three years, the JEDC, the economic development arm of the city, has been awarding incentives to developers with no minority business participation goals in place.

Some local community officials blame the lack of a policy as a reason for the low level of minority participation in the Adam's Mark project.

Meanwhile, city officials see a policy as a way to aid in the creation of African-American businesses that can compete for future contracting jobs. …