Promoting diversity and inclusion in business hiring, government contracting and career advancement has become a central focus of the NAACP Florida State Conference in recent years.  The general public has not been accustomed to the NAACP lending its voice on economic development issues, so we took a “deeper dive” into a topic that received little attention from our state leaders, elected officials, business leaders and actual decision makers in public and private organizations.

As you know, 75% of the state population is white alone and all others fall into other minority groups, according to the 2010 Census Results.  These groups are Black/African-American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, 2 or more races and some other race alone.  Based on this data, we believe all communities deserve a piece of the pie from local government and private corporations.

Just a few days ago, we released a public Economic Development Report Card on the records of targeted cities, counties, school districts and private corporations in the State of Florida.  Through the “Diversity Matters Initiative,” our review examined their records on small and minority business spending, employment diversity, advertising and spending with veteran, minority, and women-owned businesses.

In summary, most local governments spend less than two percent with small and minority businesses.  This is terrible when the Florida population is more than twenty-five percent minority.  The City of Orlando and City of Pensacola outperformed all other governments in spending with veteran, minority, and women-owned businesses.  Secondly, the workforce diversity of most local governments appear to be exceptional but advertising and marketing to veteran, minority, and women-owned businesses has been a general failure.  Although the government entities we reviewed receive your tax dollars, many still do no ttrack spending by race and ethnicity nor is this data captured in the respective vendor registration processes.  In 2015, many governments still do not have a small or minority business program to enhance opportunities for these entrepreneurs.  Our review has led to local advocacy efforts to Mayors, County Commissions and School Districts along with 4 sensible recommendations we will present for consideration by the Governor and Legislature:

•  Require all local governmental entities to establish race-neutral programs (small business enterprise program), race-conscious programs (minority business enterprise program) or a hybrid approach to enhance economic opportunities to small and minority businesses.

•  Require reciprocity by local governments to accept the state’s M/WBE certification. (This model currently exists in the State of Texas.)

•  Require all local governmental entities to track race and ethnicity in respective vendor registration processes to increase transparency, accountability and ensure accurate reporting of expenditures.  (This model currently exists within the State of Florida’s Office of Supplier Diversity)

• Conduct a statewide disparity study/small business participation study of spending by the State of Florida (Governor’s Agencies, Cabinet Agencies and Non-Governor Agencies)

The NAACP is calling on the local public to demand transparency and accountability in how your tax dollars are spent from your local elected officials!  We encourage you to monitor the spending by your local school district, county commission, city commission, water management district and hospital district.  The NAACP Florida State Conference will conduct this review annually and share with the general public.  Our goal is to ensure diversity and inclusion is good policy and demonstrated in actual expenditures!

Submitted by Adora Obi Nweze, NAACP Florida State Conference President & Torey Alston, NAACP Florida State Conference Economic Development State Chairman