Wanna Make The Government Buy Black? Here’s How

You’re committed to buying Black but is your government? Doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or Republican, this matters. The truth is government has a big role in the success of companies and we’re not paying enough attention to how it all works.

This game is called procurement — a government (city, state or federal) awarding contracts to private companies to provide goods and services. These contracts are often lucrative but rarely awarded to Black-owned firms. As Black people we pay taxes but overwhelmingly, our tax dollars are awarded to businesses not run by us. The problem is huge and most of us aren’t even aware of it.

According to data from the Federal Procurement Data System, in fiscal year 2015 the federal government awarded close to $440 billion in contracts to private companies; those contracts were funded by taxpayer dollars. Only 1.8 percent of those dollars went to Black-owned firms. States, counties and cities aren’t much better. New York City is over 50 percent minority and over 25 percent black. In 2015 only 5 percent of NYC’s procurement dollars went to women or minority-owned companies – that includes White women.

Every city, county and state government has its own procurement process, as does the federal government. Based on the process and the rules governing it, Black businesses win or lose. As Black businesses win or lose, so do Black people who depend on those businesses to provide jobs. There is a lot at stake here. But there is a lot of opportunity, also. Most of us have never even thought about this issue and we certainly haven’t done anything about it and now is the time.

As elections continue to heat up, pay attention to what candidates say (or don’t) about this issue. Begin asking questions of your city councilors, mayors and county officials about how your area is doing on awarding contracts to Black owned businesses. Ask candidates directly what they plan to do in order to increase our share. After all, our tax dollars are funding these contracts and we deserve our slice of the pie.

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