The Way Dallas Certifies Minority Contractors Is a Sucker's Game, News Shows

Ed Timms and Kevin Krause had a great story in The Dallas Morning News on Sunday about a local agency that certifies businesses as minority or women-owned. The North Central Texas Regional Certification Agency seems to be sort of the same outfit as something called All Temps 1 Personnel.

The agency was set up to rule on whether companies are really minority or women-owned, but its entire staff is provided by All Temps.

All Temps, wouldn't you know, has had no problem getting certified as a minority-owned company and no problem getting local government contracts, $30 million worth in the last 10 years. Timms and Krause ran down other minority-owned staffing companies who couldn't get certified to save their lives. Some just gave up.

Let me run it by you again. Local government in Dallas County, very much under the influence, not to say the thumb, of Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, sets up a certification agency that serves as the gateway for local minority government contracting. Krause and Timms found other cities in Texas that did their own certifying, but, no, we needed a special outside agency for that.

So our local outside agency somehow becomes the Siamese twin of a for-profit staffing company. The outside agency certifies its twin, the staffing company, as minority-owned up one side and down the other, and the twin runs out and gloms on to a rich stack of contracts. But other minority companies that are potential competitors to All Temps come along, foolishly take this for a straight-up process, apply for their own certification, and their records keep getting lost, surprise, surprise.

Racial discrimination in business and in public contracting has been a serious problem in the past. It's reasonable for communities to want to cleanse themselves of that issue. But Dallas has a particular problem. Somehow the whole business of minority contracting here has wound up having the exact opposite effect of anything that could have been intended. The way it works here, hard-working honest companies get shut out, and the scammers rush in.

Six years ago when Commissioner Price was engaged in his partially successful campaign to sabotage a huge industrial project in his own district called The Inland Port, he demanded that the main developer, The Allen Group, provide a list of all certified minority subcontractors it used in businesses in California. Those businesses were unrelated to Allen's Dallas operation, and the demand had no basis in law.

I called the Allen Group to ask what they were doing about Price's demand. Richard Allen, head of the company, told me he wanted to cooperate but could not. He said he could not provide a list of certified minority subcontractors in California because he didn't have any. I asked why.

He told me that, first of all, as an Anglo, he was in the minority in his part of California. Secondly, he said, virtually all of the subcontractors his company used in construction were Latino. Every one. But not a single one of them had ever signed up for minority certification. I asked why.

"They don't want to mess with it," he said. "They just go out and do the work."

Reading Timms' and Krause's piece Sunday, I wondered how many more strong minority companies we might have in the Dallas region if the North Central Texas Regional Certification Agency had never been formed. And now that we see how it works, I wonder how much longer we are expected to stand here like suckers and not say anything.

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze