Black Ministers and Business Owners Team Up for 'Economic Equity' | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Black Ministers and Business Owners Team Up for 'Economic Equity'

A new coalition of business owners and ministers is forming and today called on city leaders to "stop infighting" that coalition members say is hurting black-owned businesses in Jackson.

"We demand that any personal agendas come off the table," said Pastor Dwayne Pickett of New Jerusalem at a City Hall press conference today.

In recent weeks, the City has batted around a number of high-dollar contracts, most notably a multimillion-dollar deal to haul sludge from a wastewater treatment plant. Both companies that bid on the project had locally based minority-owned partners: Fisher Construction is a partner of Baltimore-based Synagro, while Socrates Garrett Enterprises Inc. is the local partner of Arkansas-based Denali Water Systems.

That contract remains tabled and under consideration.

Pickett said every day that officials don't act, the City is "falling farther behind."

Terrance Smith Sr., who owns a T-shirt printing business in Jackson, said the City should better lay out the process of opening a business, including how to apply for business licenses and how to arrange a meeting with economic-development officials.

James Covington, owner of an information-technology and consulting business, said the City should consider updating its disparity study, which he said provides legal cover for going around some procurement regulations in awarding contracts to minority businesses.

Bishop Ronnie Crudup, pastor at New Horizon Church International in south Jackson, echoed Pickett, and said building capacity among black businesses is a matter of "empowering citizens with economic equity. Ministers and business owners participating in the press conference said white-owned firms get a "lion's share" of large general contracts and minority firms can only get subcontracts.

"If we do not grow the African American business class, then our city will not prosper," Crudup said.

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