Minority contractors search for opportunity in Decatur

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DECATUR, Ill. (WAND) — How would you feel if you believed you unfairly lost out on $3 million?

That's how much Michael Goodwin says he's lost on bids since he started Big G Transport in 2013.

"A man of little faith would likely wake up and feel he's in a nightmare," he said. "It's my entire world. It's my means of eating, my means of surviving."

And Goodwin is not alone. The Metro Decatur Black Chamber of Commerce says minority contractors are missing out on work in Decatur.

All prime contractors with the city are required to give 10 percent of their project's subcontracting work to minority owned businesses and maintain 18 percent minority participation in their work force — or at least make a good faith effort to do so.

Deputy City Manager Billy Tyus says the city is doing everything it can to make the process easier but there is no specific requirements needed to meet a "good faith effort."

"We're encouraging companies to reach out and do things that maybe we don't list as part of our ordinance," Tyus said.

Wole Adeoye with the Metro Decatur Black Chamber disagrees.

"If the city would follow the objectives and the good faith effort, it's very easy to meet those goals," Adeoye said.

In an email chain obtained by WAND News, a prime contractor notified Goodwin of a possible bid just four hours before it closed. Goodwin says he was driving at the time and he never even had a chance.

"I've not been provided the same opportunity as non-minority contractors as far as trucking goes," Goodwin said.

The contractor claimed the company made a good faith effort and was awarded the bid on May 7. Goodwin missed out on the work.

"To use [not hearing back from Goodwin] as an excuse why somebody could not respond, that's not sufficient," Adeoye said.

But Tyus says that particular contractor satisfied the requirements for the project — even if the company didn't use Goodwin.

"We don't want to lose track of the goal," Tyus said. "[That goal] is to encourage diversity in hiring."

In some respects, Tyus says the city is doing well. Ordinance 28 Article 10 calls for 18 percent minority participation in projects and the city boasted numbers as high as 26 percent in 2017.

Tyus also say a mentorship program could be on the horizon to help more minority businesses set up shop and succeed in Decatur.

But for Goodwin, this issues isn't as simple as crunching numbers or waiting for a new program. Hauling rocks and concrete is his livelihood — and he says all he can do is keep on trucking.

"I hold my head high because I know that in the end all will work together for the good," Goodwin said.

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