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Minority contractors focused on Nissan opportunities

Minority contractors aren’t looking for a handout or government-sponsored programs to enhance opportunities for minorities that have so much accompanying red tape that they are more trouble than they are worth.

What they are looking for is an inclusive atmosphere that provides opportunities to work and grow their company. That has been provided by a cooperative effort between the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) Minority Business Enterprises, Nissan and W.G. Yates & Sons Construction Company to include minority companies in the state’s current largest development project, construction of the Nissan plant in Canton.

There are two major categories to the Nissan project — work being done as part of the incentive package provided by the state of Mississippi, and Nissan’s portion of the project with W.G. Yates & Sons Construction Co. as the general contractor.

Denotee Martin, owner of Denotee Martin Contractors Inc., New Albany, coordinator for minority contracting for the MDA portion of the project, said the effort has brought a large number of minority businesses to the table.

“A goal was set of 20% minority contract involvement,” Martin said. “There were some people who thought we didn’t have enough minority firms to meet the 20% goal. We proved them wrong. There are plenty of minorities out there seeking opportunity. We have exceeded 20%, and are close to 24%. That was a challenge, but we did meet it. And we feel really good about that.”

Martin said the contract are important not just for short-term gain, but for long-term capacity-building for the companies. He said being involved in the program has given the minority contractors insights into different ways of doing business with the state.

“It also showed people who are watching Mississippi that minority firms are ready, willing and able to perform the task at hand,” Martin said. “The contractors didn’t come from one particular area, but from all over the state.”

Johnny F. Crisler, president of Project Management Consultants, said there are also many opportunities for minority firms to do work on the Nissan portion of the project. During the site preparation phase, about $300,000 in contracts have gone to minority firms.

Crisler said besides Yates, another major portion of the work has been contracted to TKS Inc., which is doing the paint and body shop portion of the factory. Crisler said both Yates and TKS are working with him to assist qualified minority contractors to participate in a significant amount of the work out there.

“Interest from minority contractors is heavy,” he said. “The work is in such large portions you have, unfortunately, a limited amount of minority contractors that can bid on $10-million to $20-million contracts. So they are coming in as subcontractors for the majority contractors. And some of the minority contractors are joint venturing with other minority firms and majority firms. That allows them to be more competitive in these larger packages.”

For more information, Crisler can be reached at (601) 859-5941.

MDA has scheduled 10 meetings across the state to inform people about the opportunities to be involved in state contracts. Gennie Lacy Jones, director of MDA Minority Business Enterprises, said there has been strong interest in the meetings. Jones said members of the Black Caucus of the Mississippi Legislature have been instrumental in encouraging a good turnout for the meetings, as well as making sure that all state residents have an opportunity to participate in state contracts.

Jones said the meetings have encouraged people to think beyond just applying for a salaried position at Nissan to consider starting a small business as a vendor or supplier. For more information about the Minority Business Enterprises, call (601) 359-3448 or visit the web site www.mississippi.org.

Contact MBJ staff writer Becky Gillette at mullein@datasync.com or (228) 872-3457.

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