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GCS: Getting minority-owned businesses involved in the $2 Billion bond projects

Guilford County Schools has a massive $2 billion overhaul of more than 40% of its schools.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Two Billion dollars is a lot of money to build schools. Chances are you've seen the renderings, and the timelines, but just who is building our schools in Guilford County? So far there are hundreds of businesses involved, employing
 thousands of people.


 Guilford County Schools is being intentional about what the people who make up those businesses look like.


According to the GCS website, 42% of Guilford County Schools School District students are Black, 29% of students are White, 17% of students are Hispanic, 7% of students are Asian, and 5% of students are Two or more races.

"If you look at the demographics of the school system, it is primarily minority on the whole. It's the third largest bond in the country and to know that our team is 75% minority, it encourages people. They see people who look like them and there's hope," said Rachelle Latimer, the President/Chief Diversity Officer at TRS&I Group, Inc.

Creating a mirror image of what the classroom looks like and what the contractor field looks like is intentional, but it's not easy.

In 2002 North Carolina lawmakers put in guidelines for state and public entities to have at least a 10% minority business participation goal. To meet that goal there are state-certified MWBE'S. That stands for Minority Women Business Enterprise. This includes minority men, minority women, and Caucasian women.
There are state-certified HUB's, Historically Underutilized Businesses.

"We have to give the same support that we did to other small businesses. DH Griffin got their start, and Samet got their start. How did they get their start? A lot of them got their start through the federal government. We had schools built in Guilford County with new deal money. So we gave them opportunities to learn, to bid, to be awarded contracts, so what works is what works," said Deena Hayes, Guilford County School Board Chair.

But getting minority businesses to even bid on public projects like Guilford County school's $2 Billion bond just doesn't happen often.
Why? The short answer is it all started a long time ago.

Local historians say in 1912, black contractor LB Jeffries, won the bid to build a white school off of West Lee Street. The community wasn't having it, so the contract was canceled.

"For decades race ruled people in and ruled people out and we built an entire industry on access to opportunities to build schools, banks, for cities. When the Civil Rights Act said you can't base things on race, so now it's based on experience," said Hayes.

By then, the minority businesses didn't have any experience bidding and building public projects. So, they worked in the private sector, building homes, apartments, and office buildings.


This is why, as we circle back around, state lawmakers put the 10% minority guideline in place.

To make sure the goal is met and surpassed for this second round bond project of $1.7 Billion, a partnership was formed. MEG (M. Edwards Group) a local minority-owned contractor, and CBRE, a global firm, partnered with two other minority-owned businesses--Brownstone and TRS&I.

TRS&I's job is to find qualified minority contractors, like those MWBE's and HUB's. This isn't TRS&I's first project with Guilford County Schools project.

Back when the tornado came through in 2018 we were charged with turning over in 24 hours to identify minority contractors to do cleanup. It was successful, we did it in the time frame and within budget for that 2018 tornado clean-up, so it's been done," said Latimer.

"We don't just give contracts to contractors of color, they're qualified, credentialed and they're gaining experience," said Hayes.

But it's not just the contractors who get something out of this, the bigger the pool of contractors to choose from, the more bids, which means more competition and better price points for the school system.

Don't miss this, there's a major community gain as well.

"Economic opportunities spill over into the community and support the schools, churches, businesses, home ownership, and neighborhoods it's just a huge benefit when we can be inclusive," said Hayes.

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