If the federal government would make an all-out effort to enhance minority entrepreneurship, fewer people would require welfare help and unemployment benefits, and minority businesses could train and employ their own, according to a former congressman from Maryland.
Unemployment costs about $22 billion annually, said Parren J. Mitchell, elected in 1970 as Maryland's first black congressman, and enhancing minority businesses' chances in the marketplace will reduce the unemployment burden greatly.Speaking during a luncheon meeting at a federal procurement conference in the Salt Lake Hilton, Mitchell said there are many federal and state executive orders giving minority businesses certain percentages of federal and state contracts, but many haven't been implemented.
In 1978, Mitchell introduced the legislation that later became Public Law 95-507 that requires proposals from contractors to outline their goals for awarding contracts to minority subcontractors. That law has the potential to provide minority contractors access to billions of dollars in contracts.
Mitchell said that law hasn't been implemented to a great extent, but if it were, all of the other attempts at aiding minority businesses wouldn't be needed. He said President Reagan ignored Public Law 95-507, but he hopes things will be better in President-elect George Bush's administration.
"If Bush's administration isn't captured by the extreme right wing of the Republican Party, the outlook for minority business might be better off than under Reagan," Mitchell said during an interview.
He said the balance-of-trade deficit, the debt owed by Third World countries and the vast amount of foreign investment in the United States are problems facing the country. If any two of these become unmanageable there will be a recession.
The conference was sponsored by the Utah Supplier Development Council and Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah. Ironically, Owens was unexpectedly called out of the country, and his part on the program was taken by Col. Fred Hillyard, commanding officer of Fort Douglas.
Hillyard played a videotape on which Owens said Utah companies are missing out on many federal procurement opportunities because they lack information on how to work in the federal system.
There were several military agencies and federal civilian agencies with booths at the conference to provide information on how businesses can contract with the federal government. Several prime contractors also were represented in booths in an effort to attract subcontractors.
Don Hathaway, director of small and disadvantaged business utilization in the secretary of the Navy's office, said there are several myths about dealing with the federal government.
They include having to know someone inside the federal agencies to get a contract, "my company doesn't make what the federal government wants," the federal government doesn't pay on time, money is no object with federal agencies, it is too difficult to deal with federal agencies and the profit margin on products sold to the federal government is small.
Hathaway said federal agencies have several programs that require dealing with minority businesses, women-owned companies and small businesses. A majority of the contracts are written after competitive bidding, so it doesn't matter whether you know someone inside the agency.
He said the federal government buys a wide variety of products and services. If a company doesn't now produce an item, it should consider expanding its possibilities.
Regarding prompt payment, Hathaway said legislation requires quick checks because any delays result in the federal government paying interest.
If business owners don't want to deal directly with the federal government, Hathaway said they should consider being a subcontractor for one of the many prime contractors.