SDBU aims to increase minority participation - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

SDBU aims to increase minority participation

January 8, 2007

Albany--  Some Albany city leaders say they want to see more minority participation for government projects.

The Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization presented their annual disparity report to city commissioners. Although minority spending has gone up over the past few years, some feel it's not enough. One man says he owes some of his success to the office.

Charles Barthel spent several years locked up in a factory working for others. Now he's on a different path.

"I'm moving in the right direction. I really am moving in the right direction," said Barthel. That direction involves his own lawn service business, a venture that wasn't easy. Barthel said the path was even harder being a minority.

"It scared me because my wife kept saying Chuck you can do it, don't worry. I said I'd never been in business for myself," said Barthel. His goal of business ownership came to light with the help of the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization. Through their mentor protégé program, Barthel learned valuable information.

"They told me how to set it up and boom, here I am," said Barthel. That's the goal of SDBU, that along with helping small and minority businesses land government contract bids.  But Director Pinky Douglas-Modeste says it can be a challenge.

"The economy is tight. Business is very competitive," said Douglas-Modeste. The problem she says is that many minority businesses aren't conducive to government work.

"The largest avenue of minority business here in Albany is actually in beauty shops and in retail,:" said Douglas. So there is work to be done.

"We keep looking for innovative ways to create opportunities," said Douglas-Modeste. The program has been around for about five years now and Douglas-Modeste has seen some growth.

"The past five years I think we've done a great job. I think we've increased spending with minorities," said Douglas-Modeste. Spending has been increased by $56-million dollars. Some commissioners think that's not enough. But Barthel is thankful for what the office did for him.

"It was good information.  Very, very important information," said Barthel. His business is one year strong and he plans to mow his way to even more success.

Commissioner Tommie Postell says something needs to be done to make the numbers better. Compared to last year, minority participation on construction jobs with the city, county and ATI went down slightly from 24 percent to 23 percent.

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