I recall when I was a child growing up in Gary, Indiana, the “Buy in Gary” campaign; encouraging Gary residents to shop in Gary and support those businesses that remained in the city and didn’t flee to the suburbs to cater to those who didn’t want to live around minorities in the first place. I often wondered, “Why do we need a campaign to support our own?”
Fast forward thirty some years and we are still campaigning to encourage not only residents to support minority businesses in their communities but cities and corporations to purchase from diverse suppliers and prime contractors to utilize minority subcontractors on projects.
Indiana Public Law 34 – 1983 established the Governor’s Commission on Minority Business Development and called for a goal of three percent of the state’s spending to go to minority businesses. Contractors had to show a “good faith” effort to utilize minority businesses. That legislation was authored by my mother, the late Indiana State Senator Carolyn Brown Mosby (D-Gary). I went to work for that agency in my 20’s and saw firsthand, the lengths that a few majority contractors went to in order to keep from using minority subcontractors on state work. As a matter of fact, there was a big investigation into the building of the State Office Building and some contractors falsifying documents and using “front” minority contractors on the project.
I then began to understand the need for such programs, even though voluntary, to try to ensure that minority businesses are afforded the opportunity to participate in the procurement process. Since then, the state’s program has expanded to also include women owned businesses and other programs in city governments around the state and the Indiana Minority Supplier Development Council (IMSDC) exists to certify minority owned businesses and ensure that opportunities are available as well. Many Indiana corporations have supplier diversity programs and people in place to work with diverse suppliers and I have found that most have a true commitment to strengthening their supplier bases and investing in communities. I am privileged to have member corporations as part of the IMSDC that are truly committed.
While these programs provide job security and an opportunity for a pat on the back when goals are met, when are we going to just do the right thing and support each other and those businesses that employ people in our community – our family and friends and help our economy? Trailblazing legislators who have passed away but dedicated much of their career fighting for minority businesses like the late Congressman Parren J. Mitchell (D-Maryland) and my mother have to be turning over in the graves because while many things have changed, many things have stayed the same. Thankfully other legislators and community leaders and organizations are still advocating and fighting on behalf of our minority businesses. As individuals, let’s also ask ourselves the question, “What can we do to be more supportive of our minority businesses?” And the answer is…