The special purpose local option sales tax process is organizing. The measure that will raise $190 million has been approved by voters, oversight committee members should be chosen soon and $53 million in bonds have been approved that will jump start the planning of the projects.
One of the things that remains to be done is to ensure the $190 million over six years is distributed in such a manner that it benefits the entire community. We have had multiple SPLOST measures and rarely have there been goals in place for small businesses, minority contractors and women-owned businesses to get a slice of the pie. Before some get on their haunches and shout “affirmative action,” it wold be good to understand that it can be done without quotas, set-asides, bid preferences or any other such measure. And there is a local example that provides proof that such a system can work: the Macon Housing Authority.
The Housing Authority has used aggressive outreach to small contractors who are intimidated by the slew of paperwork necessary to bid on government jobs. For those contractors who can’t find women or minority subcontractors, the authority has a process that identifies quality contractors and vendors. Its program is run with little budget and is open to all and it tracks the results by making a simple demand: Show us how you attracted subcontractors that represent the total community or show us why you didn’t.
How could the process be improved? It’s actually pretty simple. The various government entities: city, county, school board, water, hospital and housing authorities, could come together to fund a business opportunity center open to all with the underlying notion that if done right, the numbers will happen for all segments of the community.
Such a center helps local companies compete on a level playing field. As John Hiscox, executive director of the Housing Authority explained, it’s not to “stack the decks for them, but to make sure the deck isn’t stacked against them.”
If all of the entities mentioned above pitched in, the cost to each would be negligible -- and after the results are in -- could give a hefty boost in favor of the next SPLOST in 2018.
-- Charles E. Richardson, for the Editorial Board