Most of you are aware that TAAACC has been at the forefront of the fight for greater opportunities for Black-owned businesses in our state, particularly in State of Texas contract awards. While we are just as concerned and committed to private sector/corporate opportunities, our vigilance as related to public sector contracting is based in the FACT that Black Texans are committed, long-term investors in state government… and Black Texans are historically shortchanged on their taxpayer investment.
You are also aware that Texas requires goods and services of all kinds to keep the doors of the state open for business. Well over $50 BILLION dollars per biennium buys professional services, tires for vehicles, technology services and computer equipment, construction services, healthcare – even paddles for canoes used at state parks! Thirty years AFTER the state committed (on paper!) to improve access to contracting opportunities, Black Texans lag behind virtually every other demographic slice of the state’s population in the number and value of contracts awarded for these goods and services.
The program designed to increase opportunities is the Historically Underutilized Business program. The HUB program was championed by Black legislators, Hispanic legislators, and enough white legislators to get the program passed into law. But, thirty years after the program became law there is still broad-based misunderstanding about just what the program does.
The HUB program IS NOT a set-aside! Enrollment in the state HUB “certification” process DOES NOT guarantee a contract, nor does it even guarantee consideration for an opportunity. Unfortunately, though, the HUB program has managed to confuse some legislators who have allowed themselves to believe that (in our case) Black businesses are somehow getting something FREE – or at least, are getting something that other businesses aren’t getting.
Remarkably, these same legislators get detailed spending information from the Comptroller of Public Accounts that show CLEARLY that ALL spending with non-white owned businesses in Texas totals less than 6% of all purchases of goods and services procured through state contracts. Remarkably, this 6% of all spending is the source of much heartache for many legislators and they are working diligently to dilute the intent of the HUB program, despite its lackluster performance.
White-woman owned businesses earn the bulk of all money spent with HUBs in Texas even though woman-owned businesses were NOT included in the original formulation of the program. Recently, the legislature added disabled veterans to the HUB program, despite the clarifying information that any veteran, disabled or otherwise, who was Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American or female was already covered by the HUB program. As a result, white male veterans were added to a program designed to improve opportunities for Texans who continue to suffer from discrimination in the marketplace. It is significant that state and federal courts have upheld the FACT of this ongoing discrimination, though NO court has found that veterans – disabled or otherwise – suffer race or gender-based discrimination.
This Legislative Session at least two bills have been filed proposing to further dilute the intent of HUB policies by adding disabled Texans to the program. TAAACC is on record opposing these proposed bills as are both the Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce (TAMACC) and the U.S. Hispanic Contractors Association.
It is difficult to imagine – given the relative failure of the HUB program to produce significant improvements in the volume of contract spending – that opposition to the program through continued dilution is anything other than racially motivated. Texas has the largest Black population among the fifty states. Texas’ Hispanic population is second only to California. Texas has the fastest growing Asian population and is among national leaders in the number of woman-owned businesses. Given these FACTS it is unconscionable that legislators don’t see the continued disparity in opportunity and it is equally inconceivable that these legislators don’t understand that their opposition to the meager gains made through the HUB program is perceived as anything other than racist – in 2019!
Our commitment as an organization is to remain vigilant on behalf of Black-owned businesses in Texas, and to continue to advocate for increases in opportunity that lead to improvement in the quality of life for these business owners, their families, employees and the communities they serve.